First of all, when preparing for this question (or in fact for any interview), take a deep and honest look at yourself, get a piece of paper, and start to organise your thoughts. For these particular questions, consider writing all the things you are good at (and/or really enjoy doing) on the left – and on the right the ones you are not so good at (and/or you don’t really like doing). From there you might already recognise that many of the things you are actually really good at, are, in fact, opposite of the things you are not so good at: every „weakness“ is a strength in disguise so already this fact should ease your mind as that means less to think about.
Let’s start with strengths:
Once you have your list, think about an example showcasing each of the main points you want to communicate. So, when answering this question:
- Be accurate (tell your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear)
- Choose a relevant example (one that fits best to the job you are applying for. For example, if the environment is fast paced and constantly evolving: your ability to multitask, adapt, and learn quickly would be good to tell)
- Be specific (don’t say „I am very good with people“, but instead tell them you’re good at relationship building or that you have great persuasive communication skills: how you managed to convince 50 people to buy expensive charity tickets for a good cause, resulting in your team contribution of 500 Euros).
Let’s move on to weaknesses:
This question can be really difficult, but it’s important not to lie or to ignore your weaknesses. At the end of the day, most employers want to hire someone who’s humble, reflective about his or her skill sets and knows what he or she is not as good at and needs to work on. (However, generally think about “skills weaknesses” as those are quicker and easier to work on).
Going back to your list, pick the “weakness” examples that are skills-based and think about what you have done so far (specific steps, please) to overcome those. So for example, if someone said, “What’s your biggest weakness?” you could answer: “Well, I used to be pretty bad at public speaking. When I started university, it was a problem, and I didn’t do a very good job contributing in class. But then I challenged myself taking steps to overcome this. For example, for one group project I took on to present the results in class. That helped me a lot. I still get nervous, but now I know much better how to deal with it.”
Just ensure you don’t say something like, “I’m too perfect,” or “I struggle with perfectionism,” because nobody really believes that.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this. Your best bet in preparing for this question is to have your examples prepared and many good stories to speak about. Your stories can be used for any other situational question, too, and while answering those, you already told them another strength. Best of luck!