Working Wise: Explaining your strengths and weaknesses

Dear Working Wise:

I was asked during a recent job interview to explain my greatest strength and weakness. How do I talk about my strengths and weaknesses in a positive way without bragging or making myself look bad? Signed Uncomfortable

Dear Uncomfortable:

If you haven’t interviewed in a while, talking about your strengths can feel like boasting and talking about your biggest weakness can seem like a trap.

Keep the big picture in mind when you answer these questions. The interviewer wants to know if you can do the job, if you’ll fit into the organization, and why you want the job.

Your Strengths – Prepare for your interview by scanning the job posting for key requirements.

Think ahead about your most relevant strengths and be prepared to talk about them.

Don’t just list your strengths. Stand out by telling a story and offering an example. Choose a strength that’s needed for the job, and describe a situation you handled that shows how you have used it. The idea is to showcase the positive results of your efforts.

Your Weaknesses – In the old days, the advice was to offer an answer where the weakness could be perceived as a strength, such as, “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.” But most interviewers today will see through this.

Instead, choose a real weakness that is unlikely to cause major problems at this particular job, and add how you have worked to improve it. This second part is key, because it shows you have self-awareness and the motivation to improve. It reassures the interviewer that your weakness is unlikely to cause any issues on the job, and may even make you a better employee.

For example, you could say that sometimes you work so intently that you lose track of time, but you’ve started using a smart phone app that helps keep you on track, and you’ve never missed a deadline.

Skilled interviewers may try to uncover your weaknesses by asking an indirect question like “Tell us about a conflict you had and how you resolved it.” Take a moment to think about the question from the interviewer’s perspective. The interviewer is likely looking for the weakness that caused the original conflict. In this situation, you would try to think of a conflict that you did not create, but did help to resolve.

Everything you say in an interview should communicate why you are the right person for the job:

Be prepared to describe your most important abilities and personal characteristics in terms of results.

Don’t hesitate to be direct about why the company should hire you. This is not the time to be modest.

Project a positive attitude, even when discussing your weaknesses.

For more tips, read the How do I best explain my strengths and weaknesses in an interview? article on the alis website at alis.alberta.ca.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services. This column is provided for general information.

Just Posted

Wildfire that threatened Alberta communities was arson: RCMP, province

EDMONTON — A wildfire that threatened remote communities in north-central Alberta and… Continue reading

Fatal vehicle crash reported near Rimbey

Multiple vehicles involved

Ukraine’s president urges lawmakers to take polygraph test

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president on Wednesday urged a group of lawmakers… Continue reading

Rogers Communications reports $593M third-quarter profit, cuts revenue guidance

TORONTO — Rogers Communications Inc. cut its financial guidance as it reported… Continue reading

Mock federal election for students also ends in Liberal minority

If Canada’s elementary and high school students were the ones responsible for… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday The Small Business Centre at Burman University’s School of Business invites… Continue reading

Military balls were once a highlight of Halloween

Another Halloween is rapidly approaching. It is one of the most popular… Continue reading

Very complex: Nats, Astros share spring site, meet in Series

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Asked how his Washington Nationals figured out… Continue reading

Canada’s Milos Raonic loses to Korea’s Hyeon Chung in return from injury

VIENNA — Milos Raonic’s first tour match in more than two months… Continue reading

Loughlin, 10 other parents charged anew in college scandal

BOSTON — “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo… Continue reading

Louvre exhibit acclaims Da Vinci, 500 years after his death

PARIS — Much about Leonardo Da Vinci remains an enigma: the smile… Continue reading

Trudeau must keep promise to support the West, Kenney and Moe say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to support the West should be more… Continue reading

Nationals get best of Gerrit Cole, beat Astros in World Series Game 1

Nationals 5 Astros 4 HOUSTON —The first game of any World Series… Continue reading

Most Read