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The Right Way to Answer 'What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses?'
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writer, editor, semicolon lover.
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We’ve all been there. We’re sitting across from our future potential employer, or on a phone call or using some version of Skye or Google Hangout. We get asked a question — what’s your biggest strength? — or — what’s one of your weaknesses? 

These inquiries require not only professional, but also personal reflection. We fear being overconfident when naming our strengths; we’re worried we’ll miss opportunities if we share our weaknesses. So, we decided to clear things up with this list of impressive responses ready whenever you need them.

How to assess your strengths

Start assessing your strengths with self-reflection. Consider why you — specifically — should be hired for the positions you’re dreaming of. There are three general types of strengths you can list:

1. Technical.

These strengths are likely to come the fastest and easiest. They come from education, training and experience; they’re more quantifiable. These strengths can include anything from a technical degree to a computer program you’re exceptional at navigating.

2. Transferable.

Transferable skills are often what come to mind when we think of our professional strengths. These are qualities that transfer from one work environment to another, regardless of your position or the company. Are you always the problem-solver? Are you the planner?

3. Personal.

These strengths are adjective-based, unique qualities that are often harder to quantify. Personal skills might include flexibility, friendliness or a positive attitude. Think about what makes you a good person to work with and why people like having you on their team.

When thinking about our strengths, it’s easy to assume we know best for ourselves. Try to get outside your head and consider how others perceive your work and contributions. Review past critiques and praise from your colleagues or superiors to see what others have liked; don’t be afraid to ask them, either! Others can offer you crucial information about strengths you might not have noticed or considered before.

List of strengths for reference

1. Analytics.

If you’re strong analytically, you thrive in the collection and analysis of information. This means you can easily assess the needs of customers, clients or team members, and use your good judgment to help provide answers. You are logic-oriented and think critically about problems in order to offer innovative solutions.

2. Communication.

Communication skills are critical in all aspects of a job, from meeting people, to checking in with them, to responding to their concerns, to finding solutions. These interpersonal skills are not only important with clients, but also when working for a team. If you’re good at negotiation, nonverbal communication and persuasion, make sure to speak up! Communication skills are invaluable inside and out of the workplace.

3. Leadership.

Not everyone has the capacity to — or wants to be — a leader. Those with good leadership skills take charge and lead the way ethically and respectfully. They’re great at decision making, drawing conclusions based on the goals of the team and providing constructive feedback. Good leaders manage, mentor and motivate others toward success.

4. Dependability.

Regardless of what working environment you’re in, an employer wants to have employees they can depend on. If you always get your work done before deadlines, are timely and present and achieve the goals you make, mention dependability as your strength. Those who are dependable are focused, motivated and results driven. They can manage multiple projects at the same time and complete their work effectively and efficiently.

5. Media.

The media world is buzzing and looking for new hires that can help old companies thrive in the new Internet-oriented world. If you have media skills, mentioning this strength can help you become invaluable to a professional team, even if you’re not applying for a media position. Media skills are often more technical skills that require education, experience or training. Many jobs might require basic use of programs or media platforms, but it’s your time to shine if you excel at them.

How to assess your weaknesses

Assessing your weaknesses is just as important as assessing your strengths. When you know your weaknesses, you can help yourself and others understand what projects you’ll succeed with and the areas you might need help. Identifying your weak spots allows you to find places for you to grow and build your skills. Therefore, it’s important to be honest about where your weaknesses lie.

Like categories of strengths, there are different types of weaknesses: hard weaknesses and soft weaknesses.

Hard weaknesses

Like technical strengths, hard weaknesses focus on necessary technical skills needed for a position. This can include a certain degree, training or relevant experience. These are easily quantifiable and usually found in job qualifications. Examples can range from anything from advanced mathematics or a software training to creative writing or a foreign language.

Soft weaknesses

On the other hand, a soft weakness is harder to quantify. Soft skills can be needed for any job, much like transferable strengths than transcend any work environment. They can be personal or social, like creativity, humor, organization, or patience.

While honesty is the best policy, we don’t want to simply list our flaws and faults to potential future employers. First do your research — make sure the skill you choose to talk about isn’t integral to the job position. The best way to talk about your weaknesses is to minimize the trait while emphasizing the positive

List of weaknesses for reference

1. Too critical.

Being “too critical” of yourself falls along the lines of being a perfectionist. This weaknesses lends easily toward the positive; although you might get down on yourself for failures, having this weakness means you’re highly motivated and goal-oriented. 

2. People-pleaser.

Wanting to make others happy, especially in a team environment, can be a useful skill. This becomes a weakness, however, when you’re more focused on people’s perceptions rather than the quality of the work. If this is your weakness, try to emphasize how this quality allows you to create a positive team dynamic. 

3. Missing small details.

If you have trouble with tiny tasks, fine print or even moments of your everyday routine, you might be susceptible to missing the small details. Turn this weaknesses into a positive by mentioning how you’re always looking at the big picture or the highest goal. If you’re thinking big, you’ll definitely have a blind spot or two in the small of the everyday.

4. Confrontation.

There aren’t too many people in the world who would willingly volunteer to confront others, so confrontation is a popular weakness in and outside of the professional world. Those who struggle with confrontation might have trouble speaking up in tense situations or pointing out the negative. If your weakness is confrontation, try and focus on how you might be a good leader or team player in other ways – how does your inability to confront others allow you to mentor or work well with them?

5. Taking on too much responsibility.

Like being “too critical,” taking on too much responsibility is a weakness that easily lends to the positive. Those who take on too much responsibility are often driven, dedicated and goal-oriented. While you might get overwhelmed with your workload, make sure that you’ll get everything done by the deadline or ask for help when you need it. 

Assessing your strengths can help future employers give you the opportunities you need to thrive in the workplace; assessing your weaknesses can help avoid problem areas or work on places you need to learn and grow. When preparing for an interview, make sure to review the job description and qualifications to understand which of your strengths might be most relevant to the position, and which of your weaknesses aren’t necessary to thrive. Becoming an expert on your own strengths and weaknesses will make you a more confident applicant and a better worker once you land the job.

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Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoëkaplan.com.

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