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What is the best answer to the strength and weakness interview question?

I get asked this question a lot, and typically I get no other information – no industry, no experience, nada.  Yet, people who ask this full expect me to come up with “the right answer” to a very personalized interview question.  It seems that many jobseekers out there are looking for the magic bullet answers that will get them past the interview to the offer stage.

I get asked this question a lot, and typically I get no other information – no industry, no experience, nada.  Yet, people who ask this full expect me to come up with “the right answer” to a very personalized interview question.  It seems that many jobseekers out there are looking for the magic bullet answers that will get them past the interview to the offer stage. 

The reality is that there are no magic bullet answers.  The best interview response is always comprised of two parts:  something authentic about you; and something relevant to the company/ job in question.  In the case of strengths, this means that your strength must be true about you and must be a requirement of the job.  People have many strengths.  Choose the one that fits the job in question.  If you are good with numbers and have a great sense of humor, choose the numbers one for that analytical job.  For weaknesses, choose one that is true but that is not a dealbreaker for the job.  If you have limited experience with numbers and get flustered in new social situations, don’t choose the numbers one for that analytical job.

Furthermore, you need to be truthful – i.e., you need to back up your statement with concrete examples.  In the case of strengths, it would be ideal to show how your strength came into play to add to the bottom line.  In the case of weaknesses, share exactly how the weakness manifested itself (but use an innocuous example and not a career-ending snafu).  Be prepared to talk about how you are developing your weaknesses and why it won’t be an issue for this next job. 

In other words, like all aspects of the job search, interview skills take work.  You need to do some introspection.  You need to research your targets.  You need to find a way to sell your target on the benefits of you.  The magic bullet of interviewing is not specific answers, but rather self-awareness, research, practice, and hard work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling jobs and careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline has recruited for leading companies in financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. She is the co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the best-selling "How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times" 2010; Two Harbors Press.



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