Some questions come up again and again in job interviews. At the top of the list: “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want to work here?” and “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?”

Given the typical answers given for each, the strengths-and-weaknesses question could appear to be the simplest for job searchers to respond to out of the bunch:

My advantages? Originality! Solving issues! Working together!

My shortcomings? Perfectionism! I put in too much work! I’m too attached!

Even though these responses could be accurate, they might also come across as cliched, unimaginative, or even cunning. Given that job #1 in an interview is to stand out and job #2 sounds honest, such responses could be dangerous.

Here are some tips and examples for answering this popular interview question in a way that makes an original, real, and profound favorable impression. It’s best to have two answers for each question, even if you’ll only use one.

How to Describe your Strengths

When you present your own qualities in an interview, the topic is still about their requirements as much as your abilities, so follow these guidelines to guarantee your skills come across as not only amazing, but also relevant, distinct, and proven.

  1. Concentrate on a strength mentioned in the job description
  2. Reframe the skill such that you can provide the most exact response feasible.

Here are some instances of generic strengths with their more descriptive counterparts:

  • Writing skills → Copywriting and content creation
  • Leadership skills → Strategic planning and decision-making
  • Technical skills → Coding and software development
  • Analytical skills → Data analysis and problem-solving
  1. Once you’ve determined your strength, practice expressing it in four pieces
  • The strength
  • A real-life example of that strength
  • An impact of that strength
  • How much you enjoy leveraging that strength

Try to include most or all of those parts in your response so you’re not just saying a word, but making a point.

When you put everything together, it should sound like this.

Sample Answer #1:

“One of my strengths is empathy, vital for building relationships and embracing diverse views. In a recent meeting, a colleague faced personal challenges with a project. I privately listened, supported without judgment, easing their stress and deepening our teamwork. Connecting emotionally and offering understanding brings me great fulfillment.”

Sample Answer #2:

“I’m really good at paying close attention to details. Last month, I found a mistake in a complicated contract that could have caused big legal problems if it had been missed. By fixing it, I stopped a possible fight over the contract and saved the company from spending a lot of money on lawsuits. It feels good to know I can prevent problems like that.”

How to Describe your Weaknesses

The secret to disclosing your greatest faults in an interview is to be genuine while not self-deprecating. An interviewer may remember your weakness and use it against you, even subconsciously, so you must restrict and mitigate any possible negative impressions.

These suggestions can help you respond both appropriately and protectively:

  1. Instead of framing it as a “weakness,” rephrase it as a “challenge” to suggest it’s something you’re actively working on improving.
  2. Choose skills that can be developed through training or commitment, like data analysis or presentation skills, rather than behavioral challenges that may seem harder to overcome, such as impatience or disorganization.
  3. Steer clear of clichés like “perfectionism” or “being a workaholic,” and avoid weaknesses that are actually strengths in disguise, such as saying you work too hard or research too much.
  4. Select a challenge unrelated to core job responsibilities to ensure it doesn’t conflict with required skills, aligning weaknesses away from crucial job demands.
  5. Once you pick a challenge, practice expressing it in three parts.
  • The weakness
  • Minor consequences of the weakness
  • Your eagerness to address the weakness

Just like with your strength, try to include all of these components in your response; however, this time, keep the repercussions brief, straightforward, and insignificant so that you can concentrate more on conquering the obstacle than the obstacle itself.

Sample Answer #1:

“One challenge for me is being too focused on details, which can make me work slower. Even though I want to be accurate, sometimes it slows me down, especially when I’m under pressure. To deal with this, I’m using time management methods to set aside time for careful checks and making sure I finish tasks on time.”

Sample Answer #2:

“I sometimes struggle to stay focused while multitasking. This can make me miss small mistakes. So, I’m now sorting tasks by importance and difficulty to focus better. I’m also trying mindfulness to concentrate better and work more efficiently..”

Examples of Strengths and Weaknesses

Here’s a quick summary of the examples discussed above along with a few more to choose from:


  • Public speaking and presenting
  • Team management
  • Video production and editing
  • Project management


Reminder: Don’t choose a weakness connected to a necessary job skill.

  • Being unfamiliar with certain software
  • Needing more experience in data analysis, financial forecasting, etc.
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Feeling uncomfortable giving developmental feedback

By the end of the interview, what recruiters, potential colleagues, and supervisors truly seek isn’t merely a recitation of your strongest and weakest points. Their focus lies in understanding your character and your potential contributions to the team’s success. The question “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” essentially asks whether you possess the qualities to enrich the team dynamic, acknowledge your limitations candidly, and seize opportunities for personal and professional growth.

In refining your responses regarding strengths and weaknesses, keep in mind these pivotal considerations. By doing so, you’ll portray yourself not just as a collection of skills, but as a trustworthy individual—someone they can rely on not only throughout the interview process but also in the long term.

This article has been referenced for HBR. To read the complete article click here

About High Potential Career Planning:

An initiative of ACH, High Potential Career Planning (HPCP) is established with a mission to mentor professionals in their search for career development and growth. We provide personalized mentorship programs, which can help individuals have a fulfilling career.


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