- Why Do Managers Ask About Strengths and Areas of Improvement?
- What Are Your 3 Key Strengths? – How to Answer?
- What Are Your 3 Areas of Improvement? – How to Answer?
- Summing Up
“What are your strengths and areas of improvement?” is a question that catches a lot of job candidates off guard. It’s probably the reason why they don’t get the job offer.
The question may come in many different forms, such as “What do you bring to the table?” or “What are your key areas of improvement?”
However the question is presented, it’s best to consider your answer before you’re sitting face to face with your interviewer.
Read the rest of this article to discover some of the best ways to answer this question so you can leave a lasting impression and improve your chances of getting hired.
Also Read: Why Should We Hire You? Best Answers
Why Do Managers Ask About Strengths and Areas of Improvement?
Understanding why employers ask this question is the first step toward acing your job interview.
For the most part, employers want to observe as you answer the question to see how well you know your capabilities and weaknesses.
They also want to gauge your attitude toward what you perceive to be your own pros and cons, so to speak.
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So, before you can determine how best to answer the question of your key strengths, it’s important to understand what employers are looking for when they ask that question.
On the surface, they are looking for strengths such as:
- Communication skills
- Analytical skills
- Leadership skills
- Team player
… and so on.
However, what you tell them about yourself (and the way you say it) tells them so much more.
It helps them determine how self-aware you are and if you can improve – or at least if you believe you can improve.
Explaining your strengths without being boastful and being able to show that you can improve are characteristics that potential employers find attractive.
In addition to highlighting your accountability, your response also gives employers insight into your work style because it reveals much about your personality, such as how you’ll likely cope with stress, if you’re a team player, and so on.
So you can see how this seemingly random question is the perfect way to evaluate if a candidate is a right fit, and why it plays such a pivotal role in whether or not you get the job.
Fortunately for you, the answers you need are right here so you’re not caught off-guard when the interviewer throws this question your way.
What Are Your 3 Key Strengths? – How to Answer?
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Generally, your strengths must be skills that you can back up through training or experience. For example, if you were to list one of your strengths as communication, then you may want to recall a particular situation where you used communication to achieve a goal, resolve a problem, etc.
The best thing to do in this case is to use the information in the role description to frame your answer so that your strengths are aligned with the requirements of that specific job.
Highlight the skills listed in the job description, and for each one, explain your strengths accordingly. To give you some inspiration, I’ve listed a few examples of the type of strengths employers might be looking for.
Also Read: How To Answer What Are Your Salary Expectations?
Examples of Strengths
- People skills
- Communication skills
- Writing skills
- Analytical skills
- Leadership skills
- Computer literacy
Keep in mind that some strengths may be more relevant than others depending on the type of job you applied for.
For example, key strengths for jobs where you deal with people might include intelligence, empathy, communication skills, leadership skills, etc.
Key strengths for corporate work could be work experience, analytic skills, presentations, etc.
In a fast-paced work environment, you might note strengths like promptness, physical labor, and accountability.
Also Read: How To Answer Why Do You Need This Job?
Assessing Your Strengths
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You’ll need to be specific when tooting your own horn. Take the time to assess your skills properly so you can identify your true strengths.
Make a list of your skills in each of these three main categories:
- Personal Traits: These are your unique qualities and include things like being dependable, friendly, flexible, hard-working, punctual, a team player, etc.
- Knowledge-Based Skills: These are skills acquired from education or through experience. They include things like computer skills, degrees, languages, technical ability, and any other training.
- Transferable Skills: These are your portable skills that can be taken from job to job, such as people skills, communication skills, leadership skills, analytical problem solving, planning skills, etc.
When you’re done making your list, select three to five strengths that are aligned with what the company is seeking.
Next to each strength, write down a specific example that demonstrates why you think that it’s a strength, and how you think it can be a benefit to the hiring company.
Also Read: How To Answer “Walk Me Through Your Resume?”
5 Sample Answers for “What Are Your Strengths?”
- I consider my people skills to be my greatest strength. In my previous job, I found it easy to connect with almost everyone. I can empathize with others in appropriate ways.
- My leadership skills have always been among my greatest strengths. As a supervisor, I successfully merged teams from different departments and organized onboarding programs to ensure all team members were confident in their new roles.
- Thanks to my experience as a copywriter, I’ve gained excellent writing skills. I have experience writing search-engine-optimized content for businesses in all verticals.
- I have seven years of experience in HR and consider myself to have strong communication skills. In my previous role, I was responsible for organizing informational workshops for all staff members and mediated conflicts in the workplace. I also played a part in building a positive work culture in our organization.
- Among all my skills and abilities as a marketer, I am most confident in my analytical skills and initiative. I believe possessing these skills is imperative in achieving the company’s marketing objectives, specifically since most campaigns require sifting through tons of data to find actionable insights.
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5 Tips to Talk About Your Strengths
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Now that you have some example strengths and a few sample answers to give you inspiration, here are some practical tips to help you say what you’re good at without sounding like you’re bragging.
- Be Relevant: As previously mentioned, you should only mention strengths that match the job you are applying for. Get the information you need from the job description and choose a few relevant strengths to focus on.
- Be Authentic: While most people don’t lie outright in an interview, some go overboard with the exaggeration and embellishment of their strengths in an effort to impress the interviewer. Avoid this at all costs because sooner or later your employer will discover the truth and that is not a situation you want to find yourself in as a new recruit.
- Support Your Claims: Back up each of your strengths with evidence. If you have measurable results, even better. So, instead of simply saying “I am a great content marketer”, you might say “I helped my client achieve a 115% increase in blog traffic in 60 days”.
- Show How Your Strengths Might Benefit the Employer: Do your best to tie each strength to how it can contribute to the company’s success. For instance, my biggest strength is creativity, and I believe it will help my team and me to create more engaging ad campaigns that sell more products.
- Show Humility: There’s nothing wrong with showing off your strengths, but it’s also important to acknowledge that you can still grow. After all, school’s never really out for a pro. So, make sure you show humility and your willingness to learn.
What Are Your 3 Areas of Improvement? – How to Answer?
This question can come in different forms. For example, your interviewer may present it in one of the following variations:
- Imagine you could instantly change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
- What would your previous manager say is your biggest area of improvement?
- Give me the steps you take to bounce back from mistakes.
- Which aspects of your career do you feel could use improvement?
When asking about areas of improvement, employers are looking for things like:
- Soft skills (e.g. public speaking, time management)
- Hard skills (as defined by the job description)
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Regardless of how you choose to answer, there’s a simple structure that you can use for a response:
I have trouble with [WEAKNESS]. I’ve been working to address this by [ACTION TAKEN]
However, you must think carefully about what you want to reveal to your prospective employer. While it’s important for you to be honest, it’s never a good idea to reveal too much – or the wrong things – at this early stage.
For example, if you’re applying for a role as a teacher, telling your prospective employer that impatience is one of your areas of improvement will likely be detrimental to your chances of being hired.
That does not mean you should say you don’t have any areas that can be improved. Just that some traits are not appropriate to mention in an interview, such as tardiness, inability to meet deadlines, and poor attention to detail.
So what can you say instead?
Look for any hard skills mentioned in the job description that match your areas of improvement. Do your best to be honest, but tactful. Also, while mentioning your weaknesses, talk about self-improvement at the same time.
Below are a few examples of areas of improvement and answers to give you a better idea of how you can turn a weakness into a “skill to be improved”.
Examples of Areas of Improvement
- Lack of technical knowledge (e.g. of a particular software)
- Lack of experience
- Lack of confidence
- Public speaking
- Taking criticism
- Inability to delegate
- Extremely introverted/extroverted
- Financial literacy
Assessing Your Areas of Improvement
You’ll probably find assessing your areas of improvement to be a lot harder than assessing your strengths.
Yes, we all have weaknesses, but who among us wants to admit to them? But, since it must be done, proceed with the process as described in the section on assessing your strengths.
Once you have a list (hopefully a short one) of your areas of improvement in different categories, you can choose one or two traits that match the role description.
It bears repeating that you should always minimize the trait while emphasizing the positive.
For each trait you choose, come up with a solution designed to help you overcome your weakness. It’s usually best to concentrate on professional traits, rather than personal qualities when listing your areas of improvement.
Explore: How To Answer “What Motivates You In Life?”
Sample Answers for “What Are Your Areas of Improvement?”
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- I struggle with shyness, and for this reason, I find it intimidating to raise points or ask questions in large groups. I’ve been trying to be a bit more vocal in smaller groups to gain more confidence.
- Public speaking is something I struggle with. I am unable to do presentations effectively when speaking to larger groups. As a result, I’ve signed up to take an online public speaking course to learn how to boost my confidence and communicate more effectively.
- I find it hard to delegate, which is why I often take on larger workloads in an effort to ensure that tasks are completed perfectly. Unfortunately, this puts me under a lot more pressure, so I’ve been using a software tool that allows me to assign tasks and track deadlines and completion. This makes it easier for me to trust my coworkers so I can focus more on my own work.
- Negative criticism has always been a problem for me. If I receive a less-than-stellar review from a supervisor, I tend to obsess over perfecting my work. While I value guidance, I’m sure I can work on being less hard on myself.
- I know that I absolutely need to improve my time management skills. This will help me to be more productive in the workplace. It will also take away a lot of the stress I feel when deadlines are looming due to my inability to manage my time better.
- I lack experience with Photoshop. In my previous role, I used different software. But, when I decided to apply for this role, I enrolled in an online course which I’m finding really helpful.
These are just a few of the many areas of improvement that might be beneficial to mention during your interview. This will show the employer that you’re actively working on your areas of improvement.
Of course, since the question calls for three key areas of improvement, you might put your statement together like this:
“Communication skills, intelligence, and empathy are my key strengths. In my opinion, this is an ideal combination for a job in a restaurant. However, I do need to improve my people skills, time management, and computer skills. To that end, I’m currently taking a computer skills course. I’ve also taken to using time management software to send me reminders. As for the last area of improvement, I believe that having a job like this one where I’m part of a team will provide me with a great opportunity to improve my people skills.”
Also Read: Things Not To Say In A Job Interview
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Remember, only mention areas of improvement that reflect the role’s requirements. Whether these are soft or hard skills, it’s important to emphasize your determination to acquire the skill and have a plan for how you intend to gain or improve each critical skill you lack.
For example, let your prospective employer know that you have a specific program or course in mind to acquire a particular hard skill. If you lack a soft skill like public speaking, you might present the interviewer with a plan to learn or gain experience to improve the skill.
Keep in mind that there’s a huge difference between saying that you need to improve a skill at some undetermined date in the future, and saying that you’re already doing something about it.
Explore: Worst Job Interview Answers & What To Say Instead?
7 Tips to Talk About Your Areas of Improvement
Listed below are a few tips to help you say what you are not good at without coming across as incompetent and dashing your chances of being hired.
- Don’t Get Too Personal: When most people think about their shortcomings, they tend to gravitate towards their personal failings. This is not ideal for your job interview. You are unlikely to get the job if you answer the question by saying something like “My greatest weakness is that I am too trusting and often get used by people.”
- Don’t Mention Attributes Critical to the Job: Another mistake interviewees make is to talk about areas of improvement that are a dealbreaker. You need to be honest, but tactful. Find a genuine weakness that won’t preclude you from getting the job.
- Turn Weaknesses into “Strengths to Be Improved”: Instead of beating the drum of what you don’t do well, simply explain how you are currently working on overcoming your weakness. Talking about self-improvement instantly turns a negative into a positive and places you in a different light.
- Show Willingness to Grow: While discussing your areas of improvement, be sure to stress that you are open to advice, feedback, and help so you can continue to learn and grow.
- Be Specific: Find specific examples of where you identified and overcame a weakness. Impress the hiring manager by showing how you turned a seeming drawback into a strength.
So, for example, if one of your areas of improvement is that you are a “big-picture” person who tends to miss the small details sometimes, then you might explain that in a previous project, you collaborated with someone more “detail-oriented” which helped you complete the project successfully.
- Keep it Short and Sweet: Being specific doesn’t mean you need to go on for half an hour. Keep your response concise. The question makes it really easy to ramble, especially if you’re feeling a sense of awkwardness. But keep in mind that in this case, less is more.
Just convey your point, provide one example, and illustrate the steps you’re taking to overcome the problem. Done!
Also Read: Warning Signs Of A Bad Employer
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Important Note: Talking about your areas of improvement may not come easy to you. For this reason, you should practice your response. In fact, it’s a good idea to script even your “strengths” answers. Make sure each answer is a positive statement that you’ll be able to say with confidence.
And don’t worry about getting everything perfect, answering a single question wrong probably won’t keep you from getting the job (that is unless it’s something blatant).
Put your energy into these statements and show the interviewer what you have to offer. Let them know that although you’re not perfect, you are actively working on your shortcomings. Your preparedness in this matter will make all the difference.
Also Read: Best Colors To Wear To An Interview For Females
I hope this guide has helped you discover how to answer the interview question “What are your key strengths and areas of improvement?” in an impressive and professional way so you can put your best foot forward.
Hiring professionals typically ask candidates this question, so if you are getting ready for a job interview, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the right way to answer it.
Use the information here to help you show off your strengths and talk about your areas of improvement in a way that won’t ruin your chances of getting the job.
Cassie Riley has a passion for all things marketing and social media. She is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, language, music, writing, and unicorns. Cassie is a lifetime learner, and loves to spend time attending classes, webinars, and summits.