Arghh…This is the question we hate the most, which is why this is the question the interviewer loves the most.
That is stupid logic but you have to, I repeat, have to prepare this question in advance, as you will either have to answer this in the “Tell me about yourself” question (strongly recommended that you do) and if you miss it there, the interviewer will make sure he asks you this question separately. It may sometimes also be a part of your application form.
Most of us are not so fond of the strength and weakness question, as it forces us to judge ourselves. Moreover, there is a sort of compulsion of proving what you state with an example or an elaborate comment. Rightly so, this question is like a double edged sword. When you answer it truthfully, you always have the fear of coming across as weak, and if you reply with an evasive answer; you will always have the fear of coming across a phony. Both ways it has the ability to harm your chances.
So why are you being asked this question? Well, the interviewer is judging you on how well you understand yourself, which indirectly give a picture of yourself awareness. He wants a picture. You give him a picture of what he wants, which is more often than not, related to being a manager in case of an MBA interview. So whether it be strength or weakness, you answer should be best prepared keeping in mind the job profile you’ve had or the specialization field you are interested in. It is in that way you can fit the mould of the perfect candidate for the job or course you are applying for. As always any answer you give will lead to further questioning. So tread carefully.
Again I can’t answer this question for you but can give you a fair idea as to how to go about it.
Let’s deal with the difficult one first, “Weakness“.
Most people don’t answer this honestly. Rather, they try to disguise their strengths as a weakness. This can be dangerous if not carefully executed. Remember that your interviewer is probably a veteran and will not fall for this old trick. So tread carefully. Like saying that “I am a perfectionist and don’t let things go until I get them right” .This sounds more like self praise, than a weakness. Plus don’t even use the word “Perfectionist”. That is expired now due to over use and misuse. Instead acknowledge your actual weakness and how they affect your work and personal life.
Try to choose a weakness, which falls into either of the following category:
Those that can be turned into positives : Examples-: lack of attention to detail as a result of seeing too much of the big picture, difficulty in multi-tasking due to an intense focus on the task at hand, workaholic and hence tend to give less priority to work-life balance, rely too much on facts and statistics and hence delay simple decisions, etc
Those that you are trying to improve : Examples-: learning to delegate things and spend less time on assignments, difficulty in trusting people and tend to finish everything on my own, time management, can be disorganized at times, risk management, spellings, fear of speaking before very large crowd(everybody is a little nervous), procrastination, being too sensitive, lacking assertiveness, just being an introvert, getting too attached/emotional, lacking business exposure due to technical job and last but not least, all the examples from point no.1.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong in accepting a few flaws. Nobody is perfect & your interview panel knows that best. The real challenge is to try and overcome your flaws and this is what the interviewer will like to hear about every weakness you mention, that is “Your way to fix it”.
Here is an example:
Time Management is something I am not very good at as I tend be disorganized sometimes. I have missed some very important meetings at work because of this. I have started using the year and month planner, that’s there in the first few pages of every yearly diary that we buy. I have self learned to prioritize the tasks at hand and that’s worked in my advantage. I am sure by the time I am done with my MBA; this will not be a problem at all.
So point to remember is:
Be truthful. Accept your flaws and their effect on your performance. And lastly how you plan to overcome them? The last sentence is very important as you don’t want to give any indication that you aren’t willing and able to meet the rigors of business school.
Now let’s move on to “Strengths“.
Most of you can go on and on about your strengths. Take that into your advantage but remember one thing when it comes to expressing your strength that “Humility matters”. Don’t go too overboard.
Strengths are considered to be the talents and/or innate abilities that “click” for you. In other words, these are the things that you’d be tempted to say “It wasn’t effort, I’ve always had the ability to….”
Strengths can be of the following types:
Personal traits : Examples-: punctual, self-motivated, adaptable to change, goal- oriented, result-oriented, assertive, confident, straight talk, leader, decision making ability, quick learner and all opposites of weaknesses that I had mentioned earlier.
Knowledge based strengths : Examples-: Computer skills, communication skills, fondness with numbers, maths, risk management, better domain knowledge of …., a gifted salesman, thinker etc
Just make sure that your strengths & weaknesses don’t contradict each other. For example: If you say that “giving attention to detail” is your strength but then saying that your weakness is that you can be “careless” at times, then your strength & your weakness are contradicting each other. You will have to provide some example to support your strength.
Here is a good example:
I am excellent at adapting changes and becoming comfortable in new settings and this includes learning new things. This has benefited me greatly at my workplace in taking up a key role in my team in a very short period of time.
With so many examples that I have given, I hope you are able to relate to a few of them. Even if you are not, Just be truthful and come up with your own.
All the best!!
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