Interview Tips: “Greatest strengths and weaknesses”

greatest strength greatest weakness interview tips

Interviewers ask this question to decide where, if at all, you fit in the firm. They also ask because nobody appreciates an unreflective person who focuses exclusively only on strengths or only on weaknesses. The best employees know exactly what they bring to the table as well as what they still need to develop.  This page is about how to strategically approach the “greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses” question and make sure that you stand out during your interview.

Believe it or not, this question is NOT about your strengths and weaknesses; rather, this question is an analysis of how you understand your capabilities and how you improve yourself each and every day.

When sharing what your greatest strengths are, choose qualities that are material to the position you are applying for. They should be generic enough to be relevant but unique enough to be valuable. They should also be general enough to be true “strengths” but specific enough not to be “skills.” Tailor your strengths to the industry you’re applying to.

Describing weaknesses is in many ways more important. In contrast to the strengths question, you should choose weaknesses that are not directly relevant to the position you are applying for. They should, however, still be significant enough to be worth discussing. And every weakness you mention should move you to improve or change in a specific way.

Key Points

  • Be specific and concrete about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don’t confuse skills and interests with strengths or dislikes with weaknesses.
  • Be honest, humble and objective.
  • Do not use generic weaknesses that are cliché.
  • Do not let weaknesses stand alone; follow them up with attempts at improvement.
  • Your answer should stay within 3 minutes.

Approach

  1. Describe strengths that are relevant to the job.
    • Be very clear and direct about those strengths.
    • Tailor them to the firm and industry you’re applying to.
    • Show how your strengths are real and “stronger” than those of your competitors.
    • Choose strengths from different areas of your personality. Show how you are excellent at working with people, on projects, and thriving in difficult situations.
  2. Describes weaknesses that are not directly relevant to the job.
    • Choose weaknesses that are important but would not make you a poor employee.
    • Follow each weakness with a concrete attempt to improve.
    • An effective way to tone down a weakness is to place it in the near past (“Until recently, I…”).
    • Describe how you have turned your weakness into a strength
  3. Tailor your response to the firm and the industry.
    • Do not mention strengths that make you an excellent candidate for another field, and do not mention weaknesses that are crucial for success in the relevant one.
    • Know what the firm needs from its employees, and play your strengths to those needs.
  4. Appear to take a genuine interest in your own strengths and weaknesses.
    • A large part of this question tests your ability to self‐reflect. Be engaged and interested in your own qualities. Be passionate about becoming a better person.

Pitfalls You Must Avoid

  • Do not be overly general in listing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Do not say that your weakness is “perfectionist”.
  • Do not say that you have no weaknesses.

More Interview Tips

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. Walk me through your resume
  3. Team situation stories
  4. Why this firm
  5. Why should we hire you