Strengths and Weaknesses

Interview questions about strengths and weaknesses are old standards. Everyone preparing for a job interview needs to be prepared to answer them.


Forbes suggests that you brag without being obnoxious. Provide concrete examples to illustrate your successes. Tell a couple of brief stories and make them memorable


This is the hard part. The classic advice is to invent a weakness that can be seen as a strength (e.g. “I work too hard”). As an interviewer, here’s my reaction to that answer.

I’d like to understand what insights you have into this problem and what you are doing to improve. Give me more information about why you have this weakness. Are you a poor planner or a poor delegator? Is your personal life suffering? Are you masking emotional problems such as feelings of inferiority? What are you doing to lessen the impact of this weakness? If you do not talk with insight and understanding about how this is really a problem then I will likely think of you as a blowhard and a fake.

The reality is that we are all imperfect human beings. People who are decisive may not have considered all relevant information. Those who are analytical may wait too long to act.

An interviewer wants to know two things. Do you know yourself well, and have you put processes in place to counter-balance those areas where you struggle.

rose tinted glasses

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I’ll share one of my weaknesses. I think that with encouragement and training every employee can be a strong self-motivated performer. This attitude comes from my father, a sickly child who through sheer willpower became an Olympic athlete. He used to say that he could transform any team of mediocre talent into star performers, and I grew up believing this to be an absolute truth. Life has shown me again and again this is not the case. The way I eventually counteracted my overly rosy attitude and aversion to firing was to make sure that during one-on-ones with my boss we discussed any performance issues I was experiencing with my team. Having another person to regularly bounce ideas off of helped me clarify where I needed to focus and what my next steps should be. Once I received this support, I was able to go through the progressive discipline process with a non-performing employee without my usual inner turmoil.

If you are honest about your weaknesses you will be more likely to find a cultural fit. Imagine if I lied during an interview with a firm where my softer side would be scorned. What would happen if I took that job?  I would probably be miserable and might end up being fired.

Know yourself. Improve yourself. Be honest.

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