How to Identify Your True Strengths and Weaknesses

What are your strengths and weaknesses? It's a question asked by every employer on an interview. And as a job seeker, it is important that you prepare a satisfactory response.

A single job posting can trigger a flood of responses from qualified applicants. These people may have similar education, skills and work experience. This creates a dilemma for employers, as several people may be qualified. Therefore, acing your interview and providing killer responses is the best way to get your foot in the door.

However, when asked about your strengths and weaknesses, you may draw a blank. Employers ask this question to determine how your skills will benefit their organisation, as well as to assess your shortcomings or areas that need improvement.

You shouldn't ramble off a bunch of random strengths and weaknesses off the top of your head. Telling the employer what you think he wants to hear isn't the best way to approach this. For that matter, before going into any interview, you need to identify your true strengths and weaknesses.

#1 Brainstorm

Since you're trying to sell yourself, it is important that you play up your strengths, and downplay your weaknesses. As far as your weaknesses, don't sidestep this question by telling the employer that you don't have any. Everyone has weaknesses, and denying any personal shortcomings might not win over the interviewer.

To identify your true strengths and weaknesses, brainstorm work-related skills that you excel at, as well as those that you need to work on. Think back to your past performance reviews at work. Maybe there were areas that your employer felt needed improvement, perhaps your time-management or listening skills. On the other hand, maybe past employers felt that you were a good communicator, organised or a go-getter. Other examples of strengths include good people skills, reliable and hard-working.

Speaking about your weaknesses can get tricky. Therefore, choose weaknesses that can be turned into a positive. For example, as a perfectionist, you might spend too much time completing assignments. Or maybe you set high expectations for yourself and you expect others to have the same drive.

Be honest when addressing both issues, and don't be afraid to share your weaknesses. Employers realise that there is no such thing as a perfect employee.

#2 Get the Opinion of a Trusted Friend

Understandably, it can be hard to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. To avoid sounding fake or regurgitating generic responses on your interview, speak with a trusted friend or relative, and ask this person to describe your strengths and weaknesses. If possible, speak with three or four different people. 

#3 Take an Online Strength/Weakness Test

A free online aptitude test is one way to assess your strengths and weaknesses. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to answer a series of questions. These tests are not only practical from a personal development standpoint; they can help you decide the best career path.

Final Thoughts

Once you know how to answer questions related to your strengths and weaknesses, you'll need to tailor each response to the position you're applying for -- make it relevant. In addition, don't just state your strengths and weaknesses in an interview. Be prepared to provide an example; and if you're discussing a weakness, mention how you're improving. For example: "I've had a problem with being unorganised in the past, however, I have a system in place to manage my time better, and this helps me stay organised throughout the day."


Image Credit: [Flickr]