Job Interview - Strengths/Weaknesses
March 1, 2005 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I need some winning responses to the dreaded "What are your strengths/weaknesses" job interview question (Marketing Manager position at consulting firm). I am well-qualified and, of course, I know my own strengths/weaknesses, but I want two or three surefire BS responses that will knock their socks off. Euphamisms OK!
posted by punkfloyd to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pick a skill that many people in your field have, but for this position would be pointless, even slightly detrimental. I knew though my own research that my current employer (a website) avoids Flash like the plague. I'm not particularly good at Flash and it's cost me many other jobs... here, that weakness was almost an asset.

Worked like a charm, and all without resorting to complete BS. You'll have to find that "thing" is for your situation, though.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:34 PM on March 1, 2005

Honesty spun well usually works.

Don't say, "I'm a perfectionist" if you're not. BS always comes across as BS.

Every job has a perfect skillset that they're looking for. A banker shouldn't be the same as a receptionist. A marketing manager that will be primarily handling placement and pricing is different than someone who's managing creatives or agencies.

Think about what the essential skills are to that job and that workplace and spin around it. With creativity comes focus. With organization comes perfectionism.

What kind of relationship does the marketing department have with the rest of the company? Are you interviewing with execs from marketing? Or from other departments? What *are* your strengths and weaknesses?
posted by Gucky at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2005

You could just be honest. (see the section "Look for Self-Awareness").

Otherwise, you could ignore the intent of the question "I used to [marginally bad thing] but I fixed that by [method]".
posted by Capn at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2005

"I am (a savvy enough researcher) (a lazy enough preparer) that I went online and asked other people how to answer that question before the interview. Here is what I found"

Snarkiness aside, if you pitched this the right way in the right situation, it could win you points.
posted by googly at 12:44 PM on March 1, 2005

Honesty really is the easiest... You just have to show that your weaknesses are really strengths, and that you are trying to implement strategies to deal with them.

Why one would want special strategies to deal with strengths I don't know - that is the realm of human resources. ERTW!
posted by Chuckles at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2005

Response by poster: Googly: Ouch that hurt!
posted by punkfloyd at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2005

Mine - and this is honest - is that sometimes I go too far in trying to help/do my job.

Since some of my jobs have been customer servicy - it was easy to provide an example of how if a customer came to me with a technical question and I was not in the technical department that I would probably try and help them since I am technical rather than transfering them.
posted by jopreacher at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sorry punk. I'm usually not that snarky. I'm not sure what came over me...

But I still think that an employer with a good sense of humor could be won over by someone who shows enough initiative and creativity to reply that the surveyed the members of a community 'blog, and this is what they said.

Unfortunately, employers that appreciate creative, humorous answers are few and far between.

Again, my apologies.
posted by googly at 2:09 PM on March 1, 2005

Pre-empt it by asking the interviewer: "What do you see as the greatest potential challenge for someone in this position?" and then use that to discuss your strengths relative to that challenge.
posted by judith at 2:43 PM on March 1, 2005

My greatest strengths? Well, I am bulletproof, can fly, and of course invisible at will. But damn that kryptonite!
posted by LarryC at 3:20 PM on March 1, 2005

I want two or three surefire BS responses that will knock their socks off.

It sounds like you're may be a very good fit for a Marketing position.

Still, consider that any canned response that you practice will sound, well, like it's been rehearsed.

A lot of places have stopped asking this question. If you do get asked, you might say something like "I've thought about that, because that's a question that often gets asked in these circumstances ... " [At this point, you can say something honest, or clever, or that you think you're a really good fit for the job, or whatever. I suggest you be brief.]
posted by WestCoaster at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2005

I've always gone with "I'm not good at math." This works surprisingly better than you might think.*

*May not work for those applying to be math teachers
posted by thewittyname at 4:01 PM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've done OK a few times where the job description had a small, specific skill that I didn't have experience of (e.g. book keeping as one of a long list of duties), and filling time by fessing up to that. It was a good opportunity to enquire about their training provision, preempt them finding out about it themselves, and to talk about something that was not a fundamental personality flaw, just something I hadn't encountered before and was keen to learn. Makes you look honest, and you're not really losing anything because at some point they're bound to ask you anyway if there's anything in the job description you can't do.

YMMV, of course. Only really works with small skill areas rather than admitting to being completely underqualified for the post, but it gives them something to keep 'em talking for a bit.
posted by penguin pie at 6:12 PM on March 1, 2005

"My biggest weakness? Well... "

[pause for effect, shyly examine fingernails, as if hesitating]

"Well," [sigh reluctantly] "I wasn't going to share this, but i feel like we're getting somewhere, [interviewer name here], like we have a ... a bond, of, like, trust. So here goes."

[deep breath]

"My biggest weakness at work is that I work too hard. I find it difficult to go home at 5, and my [significant other title here] gives me a hard time about it. But I simply can't ever treat any job that I have --"

[look up, meet interviewer's eye]

"Any job that I want -- like a, a, job. It's my, my ... passion."


"My biggest strength? Oh, it's the same thing, really. I am passionate about [profession name here] - sometimes i dream about it and wake up to write ideas down that have come to me in my sleep - and it really provides my employers with an edge, since so many folks in this field were drawn to it for purely monetary reasons.

For example, in my recent project..."

[Continue with germane example here]

Please note: replace 'work too hard' with any other given late-capitalist trait which enhances employabilty, such as 'loyalty' or 'team spirit.' 'Honesty,' however, should be avoided at all costs, as it may mark you as difficult to get along with or as a potential whistleblower.


Only serious, all! ;)
posted by mwhybark at 6:33 PM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Well you could say that spelling and minor details like that are not your strong suit...
posted by ac at 7:53 PM on March 1, 2005

I once told an interviewer that I have trouble following orders that have no logic, or doing things 'as they have always been done' when I'm pretty sure there's a better alternative out there. I consider this both a strength and a weakness - a weakness because some bosses just want someone to carry out orders, and having new ideas can cause friction; a strength because being innovative and doing things better (even if it requires internal selling, or initially more work) is ultimately better both for myself and the company.

And - it's true! And - they liked it! (I think, since i got the job.)
posted by Kololo at 1:27 AM on March 2, 2005 [6 favorites]

Really though I think my greatest weaknesses are that I am always late for work, and really I am not a team player at all. So you could try that too!
posted by Kololo at 1:29 AM on March 2, 2005

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