What are your strengths and weaknesses? – Employer viewpoint on why they are asking this question.

This can be a tough question for most candidates and it can be frustrating for the interviewer as well, when they receive an answer that is not relevant. Many candidates do not know why they are being asked this question and get stuck on giving a good answer. I posted this question in a group I belong to on LinkedIn and below are some of the helpful comments.

“Above all else, I’m looking for self-awareness. Does the candidate understand what tools they have which will help them thrive in the environment and, critically, are they able to tell me what challenges they may face. Both questions also provide me with an opportunity to see if the candidate has done their homework. Do they understand the requirements of the job and their fit within it?”

“Self-awareness is presumably the foundation of self-improvement. If you can readily answer the question “what are your weaknesses?” then you have at least opened yourself up to opportunities for working on them, if not already taken some steps in that direction.”

“Managing weaknesses through awareness rather than trying to fix them is a much healthier form of leadership. Especially if you are able to work in a company where your strengths are valued more than fixing weaknesses.”

“I ask the strength question to determine if their skills match what the job requires. It also important that someone doesn’t just identify the strength but also gives a description of what it is and why it is a strength.”

“As long as someone indicates what the weakness is and how they are overcoming it, it’s usually a solid answer.”

To summarize, the answer the interviewer is looking for should include or demonstrate:

  • your self-awareness
  • your knowledge of how you fit in the role you are interviewing for
  • how your strengths are a benefit to the company and your potential position
  • what weaknesses you may need support from your supervisor for
  • what are you doing to work on these weaknesses

Surprisingly enough, your strength and weakness could be the same. My strength is that I really enjoy speaking with people and in my current job I speak with people all day long. On the flip side, I talk a lot and this can be a weakness sometimes. However, I have been working on my listening skills and recently was praised for being such a good listener. I recognize that I need to work on my talking and listening skills, so that I can become a great communicator which is necessary in my position as an Employer Liaison. I pay attention to when I should talk, stop talking and when to listen.

One last tip, if you are not sure what your strength or weakness is, ask your coworkers, friends and family. Their response will help with your self-awareness and of course your answer.

by Jill Galloway, Employer Liaison 


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