How To Answer Strengths/Weaknesses Questions In Interview

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS?

The best way to respond is to describe skills and experience that directly correlate with the job you are applying for. Rather that responding to this question with a long list of adjectives, prepare by looking at the job spec and make a list of your skills that match those listed.

This list can include soft skills such as being a team player, delegation, good communication, or hard skills such as proficiency in a particular software or design tool such as InterAction or InDesign, or past work experiences. Narrow your list of skills down to two or three particularly strong skills. Next to each skill, note a particular example of how you that strength has been a real asset in the past. For example:

  • I am really good at adapting my style to different audiences. When working with the employment team they are full of ideas which I can pounce on and push forward quickly. When working with the tax team they are more reflective and driven by numbers so I always back up my ideas with facts and figures and gently persuade them into making a decision.
  • I have a commercial approach which helps me to see things from the client’s perspective when working on account plans and bids. I recently discovered through reading the FT that one of our clients who we were pitching to was looking to expand their European operation. I made sure that the client knew that we were aware of this in the bid and that we had thought about solutions.

This is not the time to be humble. While you do not want to exaggerate your strengths, you should be comfortable articulating what makes you an ideal candidate. Creating a list of your strengths (as they relate to the job) will help you answer this question with confidence.

WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?

There are several different ways to answer when you’re asked what your greatest weakness is. Even though the question is about weaknesses, your answer should always be framed around positive aspects of your skills and abilities as an employee. We recommend using skills you have improved on.

Outline the weak area, discuss the steps you have taken to improve this area, and then reference your current, improved level of skill. For example:

  • Being organised wasn’t my strongest point, but I have taken steps to ensure I have a clear plan of my work, create calendar reminders for deadlines and use the tasks. This has really helped improve my organisation skills, but has been particularly useful to me when working on pitches.
  • I used to get frustrated when partners couldn’t see the value in marketing support. To overcome this, I started to think about the way I positioned my ideas to them. For example, I had one partner who did lots of PR and I was encouraging him to increase his social media activity. To begin with he wasn’t interested but I showed him how clients use Twitter and LinkedIn and once he saw this he was willing to try it.
  • When I first worked with partners I was nervous about approaching them and needed to build confidence. Over time I’ve learnt that the best way to engage with them is be prepared, get to the point and stay focused on the subject in hand. As a result I gained a lot of confidence and have no qualms about going to a partner with a question when I need to.

In summary, the key is to be prepared and have examples. Don’t just give adjectives as your answer, relate them to the skills required for the role and turn any negatives into positives!