How to Talk About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

In almost any job interview, you will be asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the question is asked outright. Other times the question comes in a veiled form. For example, you might get a question like, “If we were to interview your last supervisor, what would he or she say are some things you’re great at and some things you need to work on?”

Either way, you want to show up for an interview ready to talk about your talents and shortcomings. But how do you emphasize your strong points without sounding full of yourself? And how do you address areas for growth without creating a bad impression?

1. Plan ahead. Take the time to think up your answer before the interview. You are almost guaranteed to get this question, so why not come prepared? A few minutes of planning and practice will go a long way towards acing your interview.

2. Name more strengths than weaknesses. This is an interview, not a confession—you want to present yourself in the best possible light. There’s nothing wrong with playing to your strong suits in an interview. It’s an expected and necessary part of the process. Think of two or three strengths and one or two weaknesses.

3. Support strengths with evidence. What does it really mean to say that someone is a hard worker or very organized? Without any more explanation, not a whole lot. Use a quick example to illustrate each of your strengths. This demonstrates the truth of your claim, and it also offers another chance to bring up your skills, training and experience. You might say something like tihs:

I have great people skills. In my customer service experience, I learned how to connect with customers from all walks of life.

Or this:

I am highly organized. When writing my undergraduate thesis, I developed a spreadsheet system to track my research data.

4. Share an honest weakness. It feels pretty strange to say something negative about yourself in an interview. But the interviewer will see right through you if you mention a fake weakness. Avoid the temptation to say what you think they want to hear, like “My weakness is that I am too dedicated to my job.” This approach can easily backfire, making you seem dishonest, insecure, and too eager to please. Instead, take some time to reflect on yourself and your work style and see where your real shortcomings are.

5. Explain how you address your weaknesses. The employer wants to hear about a real challenge for you. But they also want to be sure you are able to do the job. Name a real weakness, then quickly pivot to an explanation of what you do to make sure your weakness doesn’t stand in your way. How do you cope with your shortcomings? Be as specific as possible, and end on a positive note. You might say something like:

One weakness of mine is prioritizing tasks. I can get so caught up in the details of a project, I lose sight of the big picture and spend too much time on the less important parts. I have learned that by planning ahead, I can stay on track. I create a schedule at the beginning of a project and stick to it, ensuring I reach my goal.

Or this:

A challenge for me is speaking up in front of others. I get very shy in groups and find it hard to make myself heard. I decided to address this by taking a public speaking course last semester. Now that I have experience giving presentations, I am much better able to share my ideas.

6. Ask for feedback. Are you stumped trying think of your greatest strengths and weaknesses? It can be pretty tricky to identify your own talents and areas for growth. Friends, family, coworkers and classmates are often able to spot your qualities easily. So if you get stuck thinking about your strengths and weaknesses, ask for help from someone who knows you well.

Need more help preparing for an interview? Call Career Services and schedule a mock interview with us!

Shalom Leo Bond
Career Development Facilitator
UNM Career Services