How To Answer: “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” in a Job Interview

Jun 30, 2021 | Features | 0 comments

One of the most common job interview questions is “what is your greatest strength?” While it may sound simple, most job applicants find themselves unprepared to answer this question. This article will give you ideas on what are the best answers when faced with this common interview question.


RELATED: 5 Self Improvement Tips That Will Help You Prioritize Your Job Search

“What Are Your Greatest Strengths?”

You are asked this question in one of your job interviews. As you sit in front of the interviewers, you may be thinking, “Great, an easy question!”. You smile, then proceed to mention one by one your different stellar personality traits and world-class skills that you boast of. Once you are finished, the interviewers may smile back or simply nod, and say “Go on”. Now this is where you get stumped and start to have incoherent thoughts. You must be thinking, ”what else do I need to say?”

Most job applicants are faced with the scenario above. They are able to answer the question, but are not able to elaborate further. What is the best way then to answer this question that would satisfy your interviewers? How would you prepare yourself for the million-dollar question “what are your greatest strengths?”

One of the steps in preparing for a job interview is writing down your materials. Many people find that making a list of your skills where your greatest strengths come from is useful. Once you have that list, you may then start to identify your key strengths while keeping in mind the following things:

    • Identify the categories of your strengths – in simpler terms, people skills can be categorized into two: the hard skills and the soft skills. These will be discussed in further details in the next section. 
    • Make sure that these strengths are relevant to the job posting you are applying for – while you may be very good in sports, this may be irrelevant when you are applying for the position of executive assistant. As much as possible, try to align your example strengths with the job description. 
    • Cite specific examples in which you have applied these strengths in actual – once you have identified the strengths that are worth mentioning in your interview, back them up with specific instances wherein you have showcased those strengths. May it be in one of your past work experiences, or applied in practical life, make sure that you highlight those moments. It is particularly important and crucial because this could be a defining moment for the interviewer to view your qualifications and to see if you are a good fit in their workplace.
    • Elaborate the outcome of those scenarios mentioned above – the question “what is the outcome of the situation” should be put into mind. In the past, after you have exhibited your strengths, what happened to those scenarios? What positive outcome and lessons learned were encountered? Mentioning these details to the interviewer will not only highlight your strengths, it will also make interviewers see your potential contributions to their organization.

Now that the guidelines above are established, let’s look deeper on the categories of skills mentioned: the hard skills and the soft skills.

what is your greatest strength

This last tip is often forgotten, when one’s frustration and loss of motivation get in the way. People actually misunderstand taking a break as slacking off. Most, if not all, tend to forget that we, as humans, need to rest and recharge too in whatever we are doing. This also applies during job searching.

While it is understandable to develop anxiety and even depression when you get rejected multiple times, remember that it is ok to step back, take a break, and even find a new hobby, before trying again. This will give you a new perspective on what you may have done incorrectly, and take them as lessons learned. Taking a break also allows you to purge your negative thoughts and be your best self again.

What is a Hard Skill?

A hard skill is a part of a person’s skill set that is learned through education, training, short courses, and even during on-the-job training. Some examples are.

    • College degree – Accounting, Engineering, Pharmacy, Education, Music, Communications, Architecture, Fine Arts, Biology, Chemistry, etc. are just some college degrees that are considered hard skills when practiced.
    • Certifications skills – these include but are not limited to certifications in certain industries such as Microsoft Office, Cisco, ISTQB, etc.
    • Code Language – in software development, there are numerous languages the most popular being Java, Python, JavaScript, PHP.
    • Administrative – skills such as research, customer service, typing, bookkeeping, filing or paper management are just some examples of administrative skills.
    • Law or Legal – in law, some important hard skills are knowledge or expertise in legal procedures, local laws, and legal research.
    • Computer skills – the knowledge of the use of computers as well as its navigation, operation, and troubleshooting, are considered hard skills as well.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of strengths that can be defined as hard skills. LinkedIn was able to identify the top 10 most in-demand hard skills of 2020 and they are the following:

    1. Blockchain
    2. Cloud Computing
    3. Analytical Reasoning
    4. Artificial Intelligence
    5. UX Design
    6. Business Analysis
    7. Affiliate Marketing
    8. Sales 
    9. Scientific Computing
    10. Video Production

There are numerous other skills that can be defined as hard skills. When you are applying for a certain job, one of your top considerations is whether your hard skills match those that the employers seek. You can even up those hard skills by enrolling in short courses and other similar learning mediums. Through mastery of these hard skills, they can become your greatest strengths.

Now that we discussed the hard skills, let’s move on to its counterpart: the soft skills.

what is your greatest strength

What is a Soft Skill?

Soft skills can be defined as non-technical and intangible attributes of a person. These are the skills that show how a person works or acts towards work. We can further categorize soft skills into two: the personal soft skills and the transferable soft skills.

Transferable skills are a person’s abilities that can be applied in different aspects of life: may it be in personal relationships, social interaction, or a workplace setting.  Personal soft skills, meanwhile, are personality traits or characteristics of a person. Some may even define it as a person’s attitude. These soft skills often go hand-in-hand. For example, a person has a good communication skill because of her humor and tactfulness when delivering speeches.

Below are other top examples of soft skills:

    • Communication skills
    • Adaptability
    • Leadership
    • Time Management
    • Creativity
    • Self-Awareness
    • Planning skills
    • Writing skills
    • Public Speaking
    • Problem-solver
    • Team Player

Soft skills, while difficult to quantify, can be improved through observing others, being open to feedback, repeated practice, stepping outside your comfort zone, etc. With patience and perseverance, your soft skills could be your greatest strength too.

In the next part, we will provide concrete examples of answers to the question “what is your greatest strength?”

what is your greatest strength

Sample Answer to the Question “What is your greatest strength?”

Scenario: Job applicant Ana is applying to be a virtual assistant in a real estate company. She has years of experience doing remote administrative tasks to different clients in the past. She has good communication skills, is pleasant to talk to, and very patient. She is also very good in sales, having experiences in cold-calling and emailing potential clients. Fortunately, she had a real estate client in the past, so this industry is not new to her.

The job position she is applying for requires cold-calling for potential customers. Other job responsibilities include maintaining a list of leads, responding to existing clients’ inquiries, and other administrative tasks. During her job interview, she is asked the question “what is your greatest strength?”

Ana: For my strengths, I consider myself very good in cold-calling potential customers. Having years of experience in doing this task, I learned to be patient and pleasant with potential customers. In fact, in one of my previous work, there was an instance that the lead I called was not interested at all in what I was saying, and she sounded like she wanted to drop the call already. She was also starting to sound mad. I did not give up though, I told her that I understand that she is busy, but if she could just give five minutes to listen to what I have to say. She reluctantly agreed. I did not waste the opportunity to present to her what I was offering. We ended the call with her saying she will think about it. After two days, though, she called us up and signed up to be our customer. With this incident, not only was I able to portray my strength in cold-calling, I also proved that patience and good communication are also my greatest strengths.

Ana’s answer above showed how her answer is aligned to the job position she is applying for. She gave a concrete experience, which is a scenario in her past job. She also related the outcome of that scenario and how she has proven her strengths. Also, in just one example, she portrayed not just one, but many of her greatest strengths – cold-calling, patience, and good communication skills.

Ana’s answer also gave the interviewers a glimpse of how her attitude towards her work can be if ever she was hired. With this, the job offer is not far from reaching Ana’s hands.

Your greatest strengths can also be your greatest weakness if you are not able to justify them. This is why being prepared for this question in your job interview is crucial.

what is your greatest strength

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