Job Interview Q&A: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 1, 2022 | Published December 6, 2018

Updated October 1, 2022

Published December 6, 2018

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A person sits for questions from three interviewers.

At some point during the interview process, you may be asked to describe your personal strengths and weaknesses. Many job candidates are unsure how to answer this question. However, by establishing the appropriate context, you can give hiring managers an honest, thoughtful answer that highlights both your self-awareness and professionalism.

In this article, we discuss examples of both strengths and weaknesses, plus we provide tips on how to prepare your response.

Why employers ask about strengths and weaknesses

When a hiring manager asks about your strengths and weaknesses, one of the things they’re attempting to learn is how self-aware you are. Do you know of areas you can improve and what are the steps you’ve taken to address them? For your strengths, too, the interviewer would like to hear why you feel these qualities are your best and how they can help you in the role you’ve applied for.

Preparing ahead of time for an interview question concerning your strengths and weaknesses is a valuable use of your time before the actual interview. Even if you aren’t asked about your strengths and weaknesses specifically, scripting out your response to this common question will give you a candid yet compelling description of what you bring to the table and how you wish to grow in the future.

With these talking points at the ready, you’ll be able to confidently answer these types of common interview questions. Here’s a table with some common strengths and weaknesses job seekers might cite:

Strengths Attentive/detail-oriented, Collaborative, Creative, Empathetic, Entrepreneurial, Flexible/versatile, Honest, Innovative, Patient, Respectful
WeaknessesCompetitive, Disorganized, Limited experience in a nonessential skill, Not skilled at delegating tasks, Not skilled at public speaking, Perfectionism, Self-critical, Taking on too much responsibility

How to answer “What are your weaknesses?”

You may be asked about your strengths and weaknesses in one question, or you may be asked about them in two separate questions. In the event that you’re asked about strengths and weaknesses at the same time, discuss your weakness first so that you can end on a positive note.

When addressing your weaknesses, draw upon examples relating to either skills, habits or personality traits. You may want to choose which to focus on depending on the type of job for which you’re interviewing. Reread the job description for clues about what may matter most for this specific role.

A formula for discussing weaknesses

The formula for your answer is easy to follow: First, state your weakness. Second, add additional context and a specific example or story of how this trait has emerged in your professional life. That context will give potential employers insight into your level of self-awareness and commitment to professional growth. In the example answers below, you’ll see the weakness followed by context sentences in italics:

Example weakness 1: self-critical

“I can be too critical of myself. A pattern I’ve noticed throughout my career is that I often feel I could have done more, even if objectively, I’ve done well. Earlier in my career, this led to burnout and negative self-talk.

One solution I’ve implemented over the last three years is to actively pause and celebrate my achievements. Not only has this helped my own self-esteem, but it has also helped me genuinely appreciate and recognize my team and other support systems.”

Example weakness 2: lacking confidence

“I’m naturally shy. From high school and into my early professional interactions, it prevented me from speaking up. After being a part of a workgroup that didn’t meet our strategic goals two quarters in a row, I knew I owed it to my team and myself to confidently share my ideas. I joined an improv acting class—it’s fun and has really helped me overcome my shyness.

I learned practical skills around leading discussions and sharing diverse perspectives. Now, in group settings, I always start conversations with the quieter folks. I know exactly how they feel, and people can be amazing once they start talking.”

Example weakness 3: difficulty asking questions

“I default to believing that I can solve any problem on my own. This works well in some situations, but in many cases, I need the help of others to overcome factors beyond my control. In one instance last year, I was spearheading a client event that had a lot of moving parts. It wasn’t until after the event that I realized how narrowly I had pulled it off.

I was trying to manage everything from the strategic plan down to the tiniest details, like table settings. I did a lot of self-reflection afterward. Since then, I’ve been training myself to take a step back before diving into problem-solving mode and identify people or groups that can be resources to me.”

Example weakness 4: lacking experience

“I’m not familiar with the latest version of [insert name of non-critical software]. Instead, I’ve focused on [insert name of preferred software] because user-centric design has become a strong passion of mine. In my last few jobs, that’s where I’ve spent time learning and growing.”

Example weakness 5: procrastination

“I’ve always been a procrastinator. I used to think it wasn’t such a bad habit because I was only creating stress for myself. But when I was working for XYZ Company several years ago, I was on a group project where I could see how my putting things off to the last minute created stress for everyone else.

It was a wake-up call. I started creating daily schedules that hold me accountable to my team, and I broke the habit. It was hard at first, but using the Agile process was a real breakthrough in my workflow and mindset.”

Example weakness 6: perfectionism

“I tend to be a perfectionist and can linger on the details of a project which can threaten deadlines. Early on in my career, when I worked for ABC Inc., that very thing happened. I was laboring over the details and in turn, caused my manager to be stressed when I almost missed the deadline on my deliverables.

I learned the hard way back then, but I did learn. Today I’m always aware of how what I’m doing affects my team and management. I’ve learned how to find the balance between perfect and very good and being timely.”

Example weakness 7: difficulty with an area of expertise

“Math wasn’t my strongest subject in school. To be honest, as a student, I didn’t understand how it would be applicable in my adult life. Within a few years of being in the working world, though, I realized that I wanted to take my career in a more analytical direction.

At first, I wasn’t sure where to begin, but I found some free online courses that refreshed the important basics for me. In my most recent job, this new foundation has enabled me to do my own goal setting and tracking. Actually, getting over the math anxiety I had when I was younger has been incredibly empowering.”

Of course, you’ll need to personalize the above examples according to your personal weakness and the ways you’re adapting and improving yourself.

Related: 12 Tough Interview Questions and Answers

Related: 4 Best Weaknesses to Share in an Interview

Taylor shares 4 example weaknesses that you can feel confident sharing in an interview.

How to answer “What are your strengths?”

It’s surprisingly difficult for many people to talk about their strengths during an interview. It’s challenging to balance humility with the need to project confidence. Use the job description as your guide as you select the strengths you wish to highlight, and follow the same formula above: strength + context and story.

When providing context for your personal strengths, address the qualities that qualify you for the job and distinguish you as a candidate. Here are some examples:

Example strength 1: leadership skills

“I’ve always been a natural leader. With more than 10 years of experience in finance and sales, I’ve exceeded my KPIs every quarter and have been promoted twice in the past five years. I look back at those successes and know that I wouldn’t have reached them if I hadn’t built and led teams composed of highly skilled and diverse individuals.

I’m proud of my ability to get cross-functional groups on the same page. I’ve regularly honed my management skills through 360 reviews and candid sessions with my team, and I know continuing to build my leadership skills is something I want from my next role.”

Example strength 2: collaboration skills

“I’m very collaborative and have always preferred to work in groups. In the project teams I’ve directed, members work with a variety of people and are motivated by diverse creative tasks. Since I began managing my current team, I’ve increased productivity by 15 percent and retention by 25 percent over three years.”

Example strength 3: interpersonal skills

“I’m an empathetic person who’s skilled at relating to people and making them feel heard. In one memorable instance from earlier this year, I was on a support call with a customer whose contract we had terminated. Reinstating the service agreement would have increased her rates dramatically. She was understandably upset and felt trapped because she couldn’t be without car insurance for her and her family.

It became clear very quickly that we couldn’t meet her needs but I wanted her to walk away with a favorable impression of the service we had provided. I talked her through some of her other options, even letting her know of other providers who might be able to offer her a lower rate so she could avoid a lapse in coverage.

In the feedback survey from that interaction, she specifically mentioned that she would still be recommending our services to others. In my career in customer support, I’ve had many interactions like this—they are complex but end with the customer still feeling positive.”

Example strength 4: technical skills (software)

“I’m obsessed with the newest version of [insert name of new software]. I started pushing the boundaries of what it could do as soon as it was released. I’m excited about applying my passion and abilities to this position and pushing the envelope of this program for your company.”

Example strength 5: technical skills (writing)

“I have extremely strong writing skills. I’ve worked as a copywriter for eight years in several industries, and am committed to both creative excellence and performance metrics when it comes to my work.

I’ve had to learn how to find the perfect balance between that creativity and analytics, and it’s a personal passion of mine to demonstrate what good writing can achieve for the bottom line—in advertising or otherwise.”

Example strength 6: persistence

“I’m thorough and tenacious. When I’m on a project, I keep track of the details. Because I have a comprehensive understanding of the components, I can spot the essentials and rigorously advocate for them to meet deadlines. I regularly see this reflected in my peer and management feedback.”

Example strength 7: organization skills

“I never miss a deadline. I’m highly organized, and I’ve applied my natural skill for organizing people and projects to all aspects of my work. After seven years of working as a project manager, I’ve had only one late product launch. From that experience, which took place three years ago, I learned a crucial lesson about trade-offs.

I spent time addressing a crucial design need and that pushed everything else back. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned from that experience for anything—being sure to communicate to stakeholders about upcoming roadblocks chief among them.”

Related: What are your greatest strengths? Tips + Example Answer

Jenn explains what interviewers ask the question “What are your greatest strengths”, strategies for crafting a strong answer plus an example.

FAQ on strengths and weaknesses

 Here are some additional questions on how to answer "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" as well as "What are your greatest strengths?" or "What are your greatest weaknesses?":

How can you turn a weakness into a strength?

Because we all have weaknesses but rarely want to admit to them, it’s best to begin with a truthful answer and build your script from there. Select an answer that a hiring manager wouldn’t consider to be essential qualities/skills for the position as well as qualities that you’re actively improving.

Are there any weaknesses you should avoid mentioning?

When preparing your response to the question “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” be sure to avoid citing a weakness you know to be critical for the role for which you’ve applied. Even if your intent is to show how you’ve worked on overcoming this weakness, as noted above, it’s best to focus on a story for weaknesses a hiring manager wouldn’t consider to be key for the position.

What are common strengths employers look for?

While your best approach is to study the job description since every role will require different qualities, some common strengths employers look for include those that will benefit the team as a whole. If you’re brought on to the team, how will you help it? Strengths like communication, teamwork, flexibility, adaptability, problem-solving and leadership are all qualities that would accomplish that.

More tips for discussing strengths and weaknesses?

As you prepare your response, keep in mind these additional do’s and don’ts:

  • Don't be too humble or underestimate yourself

  • Do focus on one or two key qualities that directly relate to the role

  • Don’t list multiple, vague strengths

  • Do support your answer with specific, relevant examples

  • Don’t be arrogant, inflate your strengths or lie about your abilities

  • Do make sure your strengths support the job description and set you apart as a candidate

Although “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” is often one of the most dreaded interview questions, when you take time to prepare a thoughtful response, you can create a unique story about who you are and where you want to go. As you prepare your answers to, turn weaknesses into challenges that you’ve overcome and strengths into the reason you’re a great fit for the job.

Related: Top 10 Tricky Interview Questions & Best Response Strategies

This video outlines the 10 trickiest interview questions you may be asked and provides career coach approved recommendations for successfully answering.

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