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Career Corner
What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Julia Penny -- "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" is a standard job interview question and also one of the most difficult to formulate the right answer to. Prepare beforehand for this interview question and be ready to give a winning interview answer.

Clearly identifying your strengths in relation to the position you are interviewing for is an exercise that every job applicant should undertake. In addition to it helping you answer the question of "What are your strengths?", it will help you evaluate whether this job will provide the right opportunity to capitalize on your strengths.

How to identify your strengths

A strength is a combination of inherent talent and personal characteristics, behavior, transferable skills and learned knowledge that when applied produces a consistently successful result. Consider these key questions when evaluating what your strengths are.

-- What are the activities and tasks that I feel involved and truly engaged with when I perform them? When I am busy with these activities do I become immersed and concentrate completely or I am distracted and disinterested?

-- What is my initial and automatic response to the activity? Do I feel happy about undertaking the task and does it provide me with a feeling of satisfaction?

-- Which activities consistently produce the right results? What work and activities are performed well and successfully? Do I feel good when performing the activity?

-- What activities have I been able to learn rapidly and understand quickly? When have I welcomed and enjoyed the challenge of learning something new?

Make a list of these activities using verbs to describe your strengths such as scheduling, teaching, developing, delegating, evaluating and analyzing.

Relating your strengths to the job

Once you have listed what are your strengths you need to understand how they translate on a work-related level and in particular what they mean on a practical level for this specific job. Put yourself inside the employer's head and consider your strengths from this perspective. Review the job activities and tasks and consider how your strengths will add value to these.

What about your weaknesses?

Everyone has weaknesses. Think about what prevents you from performing at your best. Go through the same question you asked yourself when identifying your strengths and list the activities that you don't feel this way about. Think about how you manage the activity despite your reluctance to perform it and what steps your could take on a practical level to improve. Examples of strategies that can be used to manage and improve on weaknesses include practicing the task or activity, designing a support system to help deal with the weakness, focusing on a strength to try and overcome the weakness, and identifying and using available resources to better manage the weakness. In your interview answer focus on the strategy you have developed to manage your weaknesses and the results of this.

By asking "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" the interviewer is looking at how you are able to capitalize on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Be straightforward in your interview answers and display the maturity and insight to acknowledge a true weakness as well as demonstrate how your strengths add value to this particular position and company. For a guide to answering this and other common job interview questions with sample interview answers go to Interview Questions and Answers.

Julia Penny has many years experience in recruitment and career management. She offers an insider's perspective to help job seekers succeed in their job interviews at Best Job Interview.

© 2008 Julia Penny

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