Strengths and Weaknesses: Job Interview Questions and Answers

Job applicants in business attire sit next to each other, waiting for their turn at a job interview

At one point or another, everyone finds themselves on the receiving end of tough job interview questions. It is especially difficult if you’re a non-native English speaker applying for a job in English. You’ll need to accurately answer English questions, including strengths and weaknesses job interview questions.

Though every job is different, there are a lot of common questions you can expect in a job interview. Additionally, almost every question can be used to showcase your best qualities. However, questions that deal directly with your strengths and weaknesses can feel like the most difficult to answer. After all, you’ll want to talk about how great you are, but you won’t want to brag or lie to do it.

Here are a few of the most common job interview questions you can expect:

  • What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?

Additionally, here are some less direct questions that still allow you to highlight your strengths or even “positive” weaknesses:

  • Why should we hire you?
  • How would other people describe you?
  • What are three words that you would use to describe yourself?
  • What makes you stand out from other candidates?

So, how can you answer these questions accurately, while also emphasizing your best qualities? What kind of responses can you provide to impress the hiring manager land the job? Finally, what are some of the best job-related strengths and professional weaknesses to talk about in your next interview? We will answer all of these questions and provide some handy interview advice, but first, let’s look at some of the best strengths to discuss for your next job interview:

3 Best Strengths for a Job Interview

It is important to note the difference between “strengths” and “skills.”

Generally, when a job interviewer asks about your strengths, they are asking about positive aspects of your personality, experiences, or style of work that make you a good fit for the job. These strengths can often be summarized in a few words (and sometimes just one word).

Alternatively, “skills” usually refers to your proficiency in particular knowledge-based activities, like the ability to speak a foreign language or write computer code.

Sometimes, however, interviewers conflate these two terms, using “strengths” and “skills” interchangeably. This can complicate the issue further, so listen carefully for this sort of thing when you are interviewing in English.. In any case, let’s look at some good examples of “strengths” that you can use to answer questions in an interview:

Honesty

Companies want employees they can trust. If you come across as trustworthy, it could end up making the difference between getting the job and going home empty-handed. Here are a few sample dialogues to help you promote this strength:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “Tell me about one of your strengths.”

You: “I am a genuinely honest person. Even though I am very proud of my career accomplishments, I never exaggerate my own abilities or distort the truth to get ahead.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “Have you ever told a lie at work?”

You: “No, I’ve never told a lie in the workplace. I believe in being forthright and honest with my boss and my fellow coworkers.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “What makes you stand out from other candidates?”

You: “I would say my trustworthiness makes me stand out. I believe that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ and I try to stay true to that belief in both my personal and professional life.”

Versatility

Sometimes, companies are looking for a candidate who is an expert in a very specific task. However, more often than not, companies want to hire someone who has a wide range of abilities and can easily adapt to change. Here are a few sample dialogues to help you promote this strength:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “Are you willing to take on tasks that deviate from the job description?”

You: “Absolutely. I think one of my greatest strengths is my ability to adapt to change, so I’m positive that I can handle whatever you need.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “At our company, things can change very quickly and you will need to keep up. Do you think you could handle that?”

You: “Definitely. I love facing new and interesting challenges, and I pride myself on my ability to adapt to changes in a fast-paced work environment.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “What adjective would you use to describe yourself as an employee?”

You: “I would say that I am versatile. I am a very fast learner and can excel quickly at new tasks, so even if there are changes to the workflow or job responsibilities, I can easily adapt.”

Dedication

Dedicated employees are more efficient and produce the best results for their employers. This is why the ability to focus on the task at hand is so important. It shows that you are hardworking and are unlikely to waste your company’s time or resources. Here are a few sample dialogues to help you promote this strength:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “What makes you the best candidate for this job?”

You: “I would say that my dedication to my work makes me the best candidate. When I need to get something done, I don’t stop until the job is finished and I am completely satisfied with the results.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “Do you ever have trouble staying on task?”

You: “Absolutely not. At the end of the day, I know that I would be here to perform a job, and I insist on being a dedicated employee at all times.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “What kind of employee are you?”

You: “I would say that I am a very dedicated worker. I refuse to give less than 100%, no matter what I am working on.”

3 Best Weaknesses: Job Interview Dos and Don’ts

What are good weaknesses for a job interview? That’s a trickier question. But the tips in this video and below can help.

 

Figuring out your strengths is usually the easy part; telling an interviewer about your weaknesses is much more complicated. You have to be careful not to make yourself look bad, while also not coming across as disingenuous. This is where “positive” weaknesses come into play. Let’s look at three weaknesses job interview examples!

Using a positive or good weakness does not mean that you should talk about one of your strengths and pretend that it is a weakness. This is a red flag for most interviewers, and it will ultimately do more harm than good. Instead, “positive” weaknesses are simply weaknesses that fall into one of the following categories:

  • Qualities that have both positive and negative aspects
  • Qualities that showcase your honesty and willingness to grow
  • *Qualities that are negative but do not pertain to the job in question (For example: if you’re applying for a job a work-from-home position, you can say that you tend to be messy)

*Note: this last category is highly dependent on the job for which you are applying. As such, you will need to evaluate your own weaknesses in relation to a specific job in order to figure out some of these “positive” weaknesses. Additionally, the first two categories are often better, since interviewers usually want to hear about weaknesses related to your work.

In any case, let’s look at some good examples of “weaknesses” that you can use to your advantage in an interview:

Difficulty Saying “No”

Saying “no” to your bosses or coworkers is generally seen as a negative, but the inability to say “no” when you need to isn’t great either. For this reason, difficulty saying “no” strikes a good balance between positive and negative. Here are a few sample answers to help you discuss this weakness:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “What is your greatest weakness?”

You: “I think my greatest weakness is that I have trouble saying ‘no’ to my coworkers. Even when I have a lot on my plate, I really don’t like to disappoint people, so sometimes I end up taking on more work than I should.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “Do you ever turn down challenging projects?”

You: “Honestly, it’s hard for me to turn down work. I just have difficulty telling people ‘no,’ which means I end up taking on some projects that really challenge me.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “Have you had trouble saying ‘no’ to your boss at past jobs?”

You: “Actually, yes, I have. Even when I knew that I shouldn’t take on any more work, I would still say yes, because I didn’t want to risk making a bad impression.”

Focusing Too Much on the Details

Being a detail-oriented person is usually a strength, but when you focus too much on small details, it can make you less efficient. Even worse, it can make you lose sight of the “big picture.” Nonetheless, this weakness also implies that you take great care with your work. Here are a few sample answers to help you discuss this weakness:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “Are you a detail-oriented person?”

You: “Yes, but to a fault. Sometimes I get so wrapped up with the details of a project that I need to really push myself to focus on the bigger picture.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “Which of your weaknesses has the greatest effect on your work?”

You: “Sometimes, I spend too much time focusing on every single detail of a project. In the end, I need to rush to meet the deadline because I was too busy trying to make everything perfect.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “Sometimes a person can’t see the forest for the trees. Do you think that ever applies to you?”

You: “I think it does. I really like to dig into the details of every project I work on, and sometimes that causes me to lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Sensitivity to Criticism

In most workplaces, you will need to be able to take a certain degree of criticism. However, many people take criticism to heart, making it difficult to move past their mistakes. While this is certainly a weakness, it shows your hiring manager that you’re honest about your own insecurities. It also shows that you care about doing a good job and likely go to great lengths to avoid criticism. Here are a few sample answers to help you discuss this weakness:

Dialogue 1

Interviewer: “How do you feel when you face tough criticism?”

You: “Honestly, sometimes I let tough criticism get to me. I try very hard to provide quality work, and when people criticize my efforts, it bothers me, but it also pushes me to try harder the next time around.”

Dialogue 2

Interviewer: “Do you have any weaknesses that you’d like to talk about?”

You: “One weakness that comes to mind is my sensitivity to criticism. I can be a little thin-skinned. So even though I try to take criticism in stride, I also tend to obsess about it for a long time afterward.”

Dialogue 3

Interviewer: “If your boss tells you that you did something wrong, how do you react?”

You: “First, I listen to their critiques and I ensure that I don’t make the same mistake twice. That said, I also internalize criticism a little too much. I like to get things right the first time, and when I don’t, it bothers me a lot.”

Practice Your Interview Skills with Magoosh

Are you a non-native English speaker with job interview anxiety? Do you want to improve your English speaking skills for your next interview? If so, Magoosh is here to help. We have a resource page full of job interview advice. We also provide live, 1-on-1 English classes designed to fit your specific needs, while also utilizing tried-and-true methods developed by English experts. Schedule your introductory lesson today and practice weaknesses job interview questions and more with a live teacher!

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