Career Corner: So, what are your strengths and weaknesses?

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It's always best to be prepared for any and all questions before your interview.

Job interviews are stressful for everyone, no doubt about it. I've often said that if you aren't at least a little bit nervous about an interview, then you should be nervous about why you aren't. To help alleviate your nervousness, you can research the company, review the job posting or job description if you have it and, prior to your interview, practice your answers to typical interview questions.

One of the most frequently asked questions, and the most challenging for some to answer, is "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" The two tend to go hand in hand, and rarely is one part of the question asked without the other. So, how do you answer a question like that?

There is no better way to make a good first impression than to be given a chance to state your strengths. As mentioned earlier, it is important to know what the needed skills are to be successful in the job you are interviewing for so you can tailor your answers to include those strengths.

The weakness part of the question presents more of a challenge. The good news is that an interview is not a confessional. After all, you are there to sell yourself to the prospective employer, not confess to past sins or indiscretions. Therefore, the best approach is to answer the weakness question honestly, in a way that makes you look positive. Come up with a situation or problem you had at work, but don't pick a scenario so serious that it will disqualify you from the competition. Briefly mention one weakness and show how you have learned from the experience or what you have done to change. It's also a good idea to have a back-up answer in case you get asked to provide another example.

Avoid the over-used response of, "My problem is that I'm a workaholic. I spend a lot of time at work making sure I do my job right." I'm sure interviewers have heard this response before, and if the question is really worth asking, they will probe for a further response.

Most employers are looking for honesty out of this question as the responses are generally quite insightful. They want to find out what kind of person you are, whether you are shy, timid, cocky, arrogant, or even a liar.

If you can, be sure to cite a corrected weakness or a lesson learned from your weakness. Always provide concrete examples of what you're doing to fix the problem, the progress you've made and how these improvements will help the employer. In order to answer the strengths and weaknesses question well, you really need to practice prior to the interview. At the same time, make sure your answer doesn't sound too rehearsed, either.

In the end, it isn't your mistakes and weaknesses that matter the most. It is whether or not you are aware of your weakness and understand its potential impact on others and that you are willing to work to improve yourself. Your ability to handle this question confidently and effectively can send a powerful message to potential employers about your real strengths.

Need assistance? Drop by the Career Services office in D1063. The Career Services staff is available to assist you on an individual basis. Visit the office in D1063 to arrange an appointment with the consultant responsible for your program or call 519 452-4294. For Fanshawe student job listings, visit or