Once you make it to a job interview, you have cleared a number of hurdles in the path of actually receiving a job offer. However, the interview process can present several potential landmines. One of the most potentially difficult questions you may face in a job interview concerns your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate. Your responses may determine whether the employer offers you a job -- or sends you a polite letter of rejection.
Emphasize Transferable Skills
Present your transferable skills as strengths. Examples of transferable skills are written and verbal communications skills and good organizing abilities. People skills and the flexibility in coping with challenging or difficult work circumstances are valuable transferable skills. Develop a list of transferable skills by doing a comprehensive self assessment of your skill set. Consider skills you have obtained from past positions that make you a stronger overall candidate. You also obtain transferable skills from your school experiences, volunteer assignments, even your hobbies.
Provide Examples as Support
Don't be afraid to show yourself in the best possible light -- list several strengths you have developed over the course of your working life, or even strengths developed from experiences in your personal life. Select strengths that relate closely to the position for which you are interviewing. Provide examples of how you demonstrated the qualities you claim as strengths. For example, if you mention time management as a strength, describe a situation in which you handled several important projects simultaneously.
Present Plausible Weaknesses
Job seekers were formerly advised to present "weaknesses" that were actually strengths in disguise, such as having workaholic tendencies. However, interviewers have become jaded to such responses. Another strategy many job seekers use is to present a trivial weakness, such as relying on spell check to avoid typos and spelling errors in documents, but that strategy lacks credibility.
Stand out from the crowd by describing a true weakness, along with steps you have taken to overcome the deficit. An example would be that you tend to procrastinate but you are able to compensate by planning well in advance and dividing complex tasks into smaller, more manageable segments, reducing the risk that you will become overwhelmed and put off doing the work.
Weaknesses to Avoid
While presenting substantive weaknesses along with your solutions can be effective during an interview, avoid mentioning weaknesses that involve an essential element of the job. For instance, if you are interviewing for a sales position, don't mention that you hate approaching people you don't know. You don't want to give the interviewer the impression that you aren't actually up to the task, or that you will shirk important aspects of the job once you're hired.
- Best Interview Strategies: Job Interview Questions & Answers
- Monster; What Are Your Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses?; Carole Martin
- CollegeGrad.com: Job Interview Strength and Weakness
- Job Interview and Career Guide: Examples of Strengths and Weaknesses -- List of Strengths and Weaknesses
- Monster; Assessing Your Skills; Carole Martin
Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.