Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Strengths and Weaknesses

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Yawn.

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Why are recruiters and hiring managers still asking these questions?

Looking for Superman and Wonder Woman

It’s true that companies are looking for strong, capable employees. However, asking a candidate to list strengths may not provide much insight.

“I’m a hard worker.”

As if someone would actually admit to being a slacker.

On the other hand, if a candidate says, “I can juggle multiple priorities; I’ve never missed a deadline; I work well independently and as a member of a team,” a picture begins to emerge.

But before you dust off the cape and call off the search, you’ll want evidence of these strengths. This is where follow-up questions are so important. “Tell me about a time when you juggled multiple priorities.” And a follow-up to the follow-up might be, “How did you feel while juggling multiple priorities?”

Similarly, as a follow-up to the deadline statement, you might ask, “Do you feel pressured by deadlines?” And with regard to work preference, “Do you prefer working independently or as a member of a team?”

Remember, you’re not only seeking strengths; you’re looking for strengths that fit the job for which you’re hiring and your company’s culture.

Searching for Teachable Peeps

The focus of the weaknesses question is a bit different.

Rather than attempting to uncover actual shortcomings, it’s more important to find out if the candidate is self-aware. How the candidate answers the question or variations of it will also show how interested he or she is in professional and personal growth.

Ideally, you want a candidate who is self-aware and interested in growth. Answers to interview questions that show the person puts forth a best effort while always aiming for improvement demonstrate both.

At the same time, you want to make sure that in the quest for improvement, the candidate realizes perfectionism may be unattainable.

In other words, when it comes to weaknesses, you’re seeking an individual who is hardworking and humble, and eager to meeting ongoing challenges. She or he should also recognize that success requires never-ending learning.

If these sound like strengths rather than weaknesses, congratulations, you’ve cracked the code. When it comes to weaknesses, you’re looking for a fallible human … who learns from mistakes … and who may be able to teach others.

Think you’ve found an individual with the right combination of strengths and weaknesses? If so, hand the candidate the cape. Then, hire that caped crusader.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.