HARNESSING YOUR STRENGTHS AND UNDERSTANDING YOUR WEAKNESSES
Working out your strengths and weaknesses isn’t just important preparation for an interview, it’s an essential part of your ongoing career development.
Most people don’t take the time to really understand their character traits and how they impact on their performance at work. But thoroughly exploring what you are good, and not so good, at will have long term benefits for your career.
FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS TO STAND OUT FROM THE COMPETITION
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses means you are more likely to apply for jobs that suit your skills and interests. You will also provide confident answers about your strengths and weaknesses in an interview and have a better understanding of the value you offer an organization, which can differentiate you from the competition.
By continually reassessing your capabilities throughout your working life you’ll be able to make informed decisions about promotions or career changes based on what you will enjoy and what plays to your strengths. In a job this knowledge will help you delegate tasks you struggle with, which means less stress, better outcomes and a happier professional life.
HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY WHAT THEY ARE?
Your strengths are traits, characteristics, knowledge and skills that positively impact your work. Your weaknesses are habits, personality traits and less developed skills that hold you back professionally and affect how you work negatively.
Understanding them can be challenging. Not many people like admitting and talking about weaknesses, others feel that highlighting their strengths too much will appear arrogant. But it’s important to be confident discussing and identifying both, here are some ways to do that:
- Join a mentoring program if your company has one. The mentor-mentee relationship is a great way to openly discuss how to build on what you do well and how to manage what you don’t.
- Search for performance appraisal patterns. Look at previous manager feedback and find any recurring themes.
- Get honest feedback. Find people in your professional network you are comfortable with. Don’t be shy about asking them for feedback and don’t be offended if it’s not all positive.
- Reflect on career hiccups. Work out want went wrong, why and how you could have done better.
- Find out your strengths. Use online evaluation tools such as Gallup Strength Finder or Red Bull’s Wingfinder (which is free). They’ll give you a credible report on your strengths and character traits.
- Do a SWOT analysis. This is where you write down your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats by considering your experience, qualifications, personality, soft skills and key achievements. You can use online websites such as Mind Tools SWOT Analysis to help.
However you choose to go about identifying your strengths and weaknesses, focus tightly on them. For example, instead of broadly saying your weakness is communication skills, work out exactly what aspect of communication skills you struggle with or lack confidence in.
NOW WORK OUT HOW TO TALK ABOUT YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
As ever preparation is vital. Before an interview think about how your strengths match up with the requirements of the role. Look for key words in the job advert, talk to your network and ask the recruiter or hiring manager exactly what is required. Then consolidate your strengths into the four to six most relevant and come up with a career moment that demonstrates each one. Your achievements are the proof that you possess the strengths you claim to have.
An interview is not a time to be modest so don’t be afraid to boast a little. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd, so talk about your strengths in an honest and engaging way that demonstrates how they have had a positive impact on your career. If an interviewer doesn’t specifically ask about them, find a way to drop them into the discussion without appearing arrogant. Lots of common interview questions give you a chance to talk about your strengths, such as:
Why should we consider you?
Why are you a good fit for this role?
Similarly, behavioral questions allow you to tell interviewers about a key strength while discussing a relevant career moment. Read guide How to prepare for a behavioral interview to learn more.
In the same way you should think about your strengths before an interview, you need to think about your weaknesses. It’s in your best interests to be honest when you do this. Interviewers like to build trust and want to know if you’re a good fit for the role and company for your benefit and theirs. But don’t choose to discuss weaknesses that might raise eyebrows when it comes to your personal motivation or ability to undertake the basic requirements of the role.
The way you answer these questions shows a lot about your confidence, communication skills and personality. Try to be open and relaxed, and focus on weaknesses that could also be seen as strengths. For example, your interpersonal skills might need some work because you sometimes inadvertently upset people by being too honest about their performance. But honesty is also a positive. The key is to show you are aware of your weaknesses and their impact and how you proactively manage them.
A good response would be something like: “My friends and family tell me I am too honest sometimes and can upset people with my feedback. I know this is a weakness at home and can sometimes cause an issue in the workplace but generally only when I am under considerable pressure. I like to be honest with people so they know exactly where they stand with me, but I am making a conscious effort to make sure I take the time to consider how that person would like to be communicated with and how I can engage constructively. I find if I take a few minutes before each meeting to think about how best to deliver feedback constructively, it really helps.”
Don’t dwell on your weaknesses and be comfortable with silence – don’t fill it with waffle. Be concise and then let the interviewer move on, this shows you are self-aware and confident.
One mistake to look out for is making a positive attribute look like a weakness. Interviewers are wise to overused answers such as: “I am a workaholic and need to better manage my work-life balance” and it won’t reflect well on you.
KEEP BUILDING ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Don’t overthink your weaknesses. Be aware of them and learn how to manage them, but focus on developing your strengths because it’s these that will propel your career forward.
FIVE THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Positive and negative.
- Discover and understand your individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Develop authentic career moments for each of your strengths.
- Don’t be modest, talk about your strengths if not specifically asked.
- Be honest with yourself and during interviews.