While they may not use the terms “strengths” and “weaknesses”, interviewers will typically ask applicants about the things they are good at and their skills that need improving.

Before walking into a job interview, you should be able to discuss your best and worst skills in a way that still makes you seem like an attractive job candidate. These are tricky subjects to talk about. Having loosely scripted responses will it give you good interview material that you can access when prompted.

Talking About Weaknesses

Most people find it difficult to talk about personal weaknesses, even in situations where a job opening isn’t on the line. The key to talking about weaknesses in an interview is to do it strategically, and that starts with a bit of research.

First, review the job description and pick out the essential skills. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to avoid mentioning any of these skills as a professional weakness. Although, if you aren’t very good at the core skills needed to perform a job, you probably shouldn’t be applying to it anyway.

Next, take some time to consider less-essential skills that you could get better at doing. These might be technical skills that fall under the “nice to have” category for the open position, or they could be soft skills like leadership or conflict resolution.

Once you’ve settled on one or two weaknesses, develop some context around each weakness. For example, you might talk about how you tend to avoid workplace conflict as much as possible. You should then be able to follow this up with concrete steps you are taking to improve this skill. To improve interpersonal conflict skills, you could talk about playing recreational sports or participating in other interests that involve some degree of healthy conflict.

If you are asked to talk about strengths and weaknesses in the same question, you should start with weaknesses. It’s always a good idea to end your answer on a positive note.

Talking About Strengths

You might think it’s easy to talk about the things you’re good at doing, but in a job interview, going off about how wonderful you are might make you seem arrogant. Therefore, it’s a good idea to talk about your strengths with a balance of confidence and humility.

Good preparation can help you talk about strengths in a way that feels factual, not self-aggrandizing. Study the job posting and determine which necessary skills are in your wheelhouse. Then, try to quantify those skills with examples from your work history and hard numbers. For example, you could talk about your leadership ability by describing how process improvements you implemented saved tens of thousands of dollars each year. When you can describe your skills in these terms, your interviewer can envision you succeeding in the open position.

There is no need to connect every single skill from the job description to one of your strengths. Instead, pick out two or three skills that seem most essential do the job.

We Can Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview

At ZDA, we regularly coach job seekers for interviews and provide them with proven strategies. If you are currently looking for job search assistance, please contact us today.