How to Talk About Your Strengths and Weaknesses

When gearing up for a job interview, there are many types of questions you can easily prepare for. You know who you are, your aspirations, and your career history to date. The most dreaded of all interview questions however, will ask the candidate to analyse their strengths and weaknesses, and on the surface this style of question can seem like a trap. While self-analysis may seem intimidating, the interview panel is really just interested in getting to know you better, finding out more about the way you think and seeing whether you are able to learn from your experiences.

How do I talk about my strengths?

There are probably lots of things that you are good at, but in this situation you need to choose a strength that will help you win over the panelists. Have a look at the position description, and see how  the most important elements of the role align with your own skills. If they value communication skills, find a way of talking about your own without parroting their exact language back to them. You could talk about the way you interact with clients, or your passion for writing. Remember that an interview is all about presenting the best version of yourself, so take this opportunity to really show off your skills. Talk about your strengths, times when you have used them, feedback you have received and any efforts you have made to progress in this area.

Example of a good answer:

“I would say that one of my strengths is my ability to work well under pressure. In my most recent role we often had to deliver products to our clients within very narrow time frames which meant that there was the potential for a lot of stress in the workplace. I came up with a great system for managing these projects which is used by the entire office now, and my boss actually  asked me to talk to my colleagues about some of the other methods I use to keep calm in the face of a deadline.”

How do I talk about my weaknesses?

Talking about your weaknesses can be a little more difficult. Many people will try to mask a strength as a weakness such as being a “perfectionist” or “caring too much”, however you won't find many interviewers who haven't heard these answers hundreds of times before. Try for more sincerity, think of something which you may not be amazing at, or a skill you may be missing, which will not directly impact your abilities in this particular role. Demonstrating that you are aware of this weakness and have been taking steps to better yourself will also impress the panel, much more than if you appear to be acknowledging the weakness for the first time.

Example of a good answer:

“I've actually spent a lot of time working on my public speaking skills.  I used to be quite shy in front of crowds, but I have had to speak at several conferences in the past two years so I started taking advantage of any opportunity to practise with lower stakes. I spoke in front of several staff functions and then moved on to speaking in front of bigger crowds. I am still working to combat my nerves and hone my skills, but I'm actually starting to enjoy it.” 

Category: 
Interview, Job Search

How to make yourself more employable (and stand out from the crowd)

Most people have, at some stage in their careers, been passed over for a job or promotion because the other candidate had that little something extra. There are times when this is unavoidable, but there are also plenty of things that you can do along the way to make sure you are the one who stands out next time an opportunity comes along.

1. Do your research

Have a look at position descriptions for roles or promotions that you might be interested in down the track. Ask yourself honestly which of the boxes you don't tick, or which areas you could become more competent in. You should also take any available opportunities to speak with current, or past direct reports and ask them what areas they think you could work on to move forward in your chosen field.

2. Brush Up Your Skills

If you are currently employed, this is the perfect time to start preparing for your next role. If you think your knowledge in a particular area is below average take some tutorials, do some research or speak to someone who knows more than you. Ask your employer if there is a way you can incorporate this skill into your daily tasks to help you to practise and learn more. If you aren't currently employed these options are still available to you, instead of using the skill at work find other ways to use it on a daily basis. Every extra skill looks great on your resume, and being able to talk about it confidently in an interview can only help your chances.

3. Further Study

Not everyone can take the time out of their career to go back to school and earn another degree, but this doesn't mean you can't add extra qualifications to your CV along the way. There are plenty of TAFEs and online providers who offer short courses which you can fit in around an existing role. Many employers encourage professional development, and may even have a budget to help you out financially. Workshops and training courses offered by your workplace should also be taken advantage of and listed on your resume when relevant. Make sure you remember that all of these little things add up when presenting the best you possible.

4. Perfect Your Resume

You might be perfect for the role, but if your resume isn't up to scratch then you won't even make it to interview stages for many roles. Make sure it looks professional, and contains all details of all relevant skills, experience and education. If you aren't sure how to do this, download our free resume template now or call The Institute of Careers for more advice.

5. Look The Part

Make sure you have at least one nice suit, a crisp white shirt and polished shoes. Practise answering interview questions in front of a mirror. Back up your skills with confidence and good presentation to sell yourself as the complete package and be the most employable you that you can be!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

How to Research a Role

One of the most common questions you will find yourself asked in an interview is “What do you know about our company?”. It can sometimes feel awkward telling the interview panel what they already know, but this demonstrates that you are well prepared, and also genuinely interested in the position.

The Position Description

Read the Position Description thoroughly. This is your first insight into the position and has all of the most important information that you need to know. If there are any terms you don't understand make the effort to look each of them up so that you won't be caught off guard in the interview. If you have any questions, make note of them so that you can ask when the opportunity arises. Make sure that you check to see if there is a more detailed Position Description or any other additional information attached to the advertisement.

Human Resources

Many job advertisements will list a phone number for enquiries about the role, and some will even encourage you to call them for a chat before applying. Talking with a real person can help you to understand the workplace culture and how the role fits into the organisation. If you make a good impression this conversation may also help you to stand out from the crowd when shortlisting occurs.

Company website

This is your most valuable resource for understanding the identity that the company wants to present to the public. Read About Us and History sections to find out how the company has evolved. Have a look at Team pages to understand the corporate structure, and possibly research the interview panel. Read any News or Blog pages for ideas on conversation points and questions to bring up during your interview. Values and Mission Statements will also allow you to decide how you would like to present yourself in the interview, you can play up certain elements of your personality and skills that this particular organisation considers desirable, while downplaying others which may be at odds with their culture.

LinkedIn

This social media and networking tool is playing an increasingly large role in bridging the gap between employers and job seekers. Many companies will have a LinkedIn profile for the organisation itself, as well as many of the key players in management and people who may end up being part of your team. You can also see news, profiles and links that the company has posted, which will sometimes be different to their more formal website content, providing a different insight into the public persona of the organisation.

Google Search

It can often be handy to use Google to look into a prospective workplace. The company may have online reviews, be listed in connection with recent news stories, or have a wide range of information detailed on their Wikipedia page. Just remember, if it wasn't posted by an official source it may not necessarily be accurate!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search

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About Us

The Institute of Careers is a leading career development and advisory support service, equipping Australian job-seekers and employees with the know-how to supercharge their careers. We offer a wide range of resources, including cheat sheets, FAQs and customisable templates, covering all aspects of professional development – from writing a cracking cover letter, searching for a job and selling yourself in an interview, to landing a promotion and becoming a great manager.