For Job Interview Success: Identify Your Professional Strengths

professional strengthsOne of the favorite questions of interviewers across industries and job positions is asking candidates to name their personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. An applicant’s ability to identify their areas of excellence and improvable traits demonstrates critical thinking skills. It also shows higher level analytical ability and on the spot conversational know-how.

Sure, these are all positives from the interviewer’s perspective. But being on the firing line can be a challenge to even the most seasoned job searcher. Most people dislike talking about themselves in even social scenarios, much less with a career opportunity on the line. For a prepared interviewee, however, there’s no need to fear.

Here, we’ve compiled some simple exercises, questions, and prompts. Our goal: help you tackle this pivotal portion of the interview with ease.

Take a Personal Inventory

The first step in preparing for your job interview involves an exercise in self-analysis. Grab yourself paper and pencil or a handy, high-tech device, and compile a simple list of strengths and weaknesses. At this point, you won’t be looking for traits with a specific career or employment bent. Instead, you’ll focus only the areas in which you believe you excel or need improvement.

If you find yourself at ease in crowds, add “sociable” or “great conversationalist” to the pros list. If you’re often distracted when you set on a specific task, throw “focus” on the con side. In addition to personality traits, list skills that you’ve acquired through your education or prior experiences. Things such as advanced certifications, knowledge about specific programs or systems, and more.

During this list-making exercise, it’s important to be as honest as possible. It’s not like you’ll be sharing this list with your mom, after all. A frank analysis is an important first step. And remember: withholding less than desirable traits only lessens the effectiveness of your interview prep.

Let’s Talk About Those Professional Strengths

Talking about your positive traits may seem like a walk in the park with your latest blind date. Pitching your attractive qualities to a prospective employer, though, is another monster altogether. There’s a fine line between confidence and boastfulness, after all. And crossing that invisible line can mean the difference between a job offer and the career version of a Dear John letter.

Analyze your list of professional strengths and compare with the listing for the job you’ll be interviewing for. Choose several traits, both obvious and nuanced, you believe show you’re an excellent fit for the company and position. In addition, peruse the company’s website for a list of their institutional values or history. Your goal: find other areas where your skill set and personal values may be applicable.

When crafting your list of professional strengths you’ll be bringing up during the interview, think about ways to come across as humble but confident. Know your strengths, but don’t pitch yourself as the best candidate that ever lived. The last thing you want to do is set unreasonable expectations for when you do end up landing the gig.

We All Have Our Weaknesses

Next, you’ll want to tackle that list of weaknesses. Why? Because no one can come up roses all the time whether in life or in their careers.

The ability to spot areas where you may need improvement is a valuable trait to a prospective employer. Not only does this indicate you have an open mind, it shows an ability to grow personally and professionally. Most employers are looking for employees that will stick with the company long-term. Which makes these skills critical to identifying the best candidates for the job.

Sure, it’s not always easy to talk about negative traits and communicate them in simple terms. But the best candidates have the ability to turn frowns upside down when it comes to their weaknesses. Identify traits that while seemingly negative, have the potential to be upsides when harnessed or developed fully. Tenacity can be a negative when it means you focus on one task past its usefulness. But it can also be a positive when looking for innovative solutions to tough problems.

When the interviewer asks for your weakest traits, pick out these grey area characteristics. Be sure to mention how their negatives can often be frustrating. Then discuss how you’re harnessing these skills to become more accomplished in your career path.

Be Honest with Yourself

When answering questions about your professional strengths and weaknesses, keep in mind that your new employer is interested in the skills and accomplishments that may make you a good employee. Which means they care less about traits like leaving your bed unmade every morning.

So be honest with your self-analysis. Do plenty of prep work for the actual interview. Stay relevant to this job at this company. And soon you’ll be that much closer to landing the job of your dreams!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Simply Hired.


Simply Hired



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