As you prepare for your job interview, you’ll likely Google “top interview questions” or the like to find out what kinds of questions you may be asked. On just about every one of those lists you’ll find two questions sure to make the average person heave a big sigh: “What is your greatest strength?” and “What is your greatest weakness?”
But the fact is, these questions usually are on an interviewer’s list, so you need to prepare for them.
Nobody’s perfect, so you need to have a weakness lined up before you sit down to talk with the hiring manager. You certainly want to be honest about it, or your answer will just sound contrived. But not too honest. After all, you’re trying to get the job, not convince the manager she shouldn’t hire you.
The trick is to cite your pre-selected weakness (and it goes without saying that this weakness needs to be job-related) and then immediately follow up with how you are working to overcome it.
For example: “I would say my greatest weakness is my tendency to get caught up in the small details. Sometimes I get behind on my therapy schedule for the day because I’ve spent too much time documenting the care I delivered in the electronic medical record. But I’m learning to say what needs to be said without adding in extraneous information that really isn’t important to the patient’s care, and that has helped me get back on track.”
What not to do: Despite what you might really think about the “weakness” question, don’t sigh or roll your eyes or in any other way discount its value to the hiring manager. You also don’t want to pick a weakness that would paint you in an bad light (such as “I’m always late for my shift” or “I tend to argue with everyone about the right way to do a procedure”). And don’t overdo your answer either. One short but concrete example from your previous job will more than suffice.
Talking about weaknesses is never fun, but sharing information about your best and most awesome trait should be. Similar to the weakness question, you need to come up with a strength you can cite before you go into the interview and have a concrete example from your work experience to back it up.
For example: “I enjoy working with people and collaborating with the other members of the health care team on patient care. At my current job, we round with the residents and nurses on all of our ICU patients every morning and I take advantage of that to bring up any respiratory concerns I’ve seen with the patient. I think I’ve also become pretty good at being the respiratory expert in the room when they have questions about respiratory issues the patient may be having. The patient benefits so much when we all communicate with each other and work as a team.”
What not to do: The whole point of this question is to give you a chance to paint yourself in a positive light. That said, you have to strike a balance between being a braggart and being too modest. Exude over-confidence in your abilities and the manager will think you’re a diva who will be difficult to please. Downplay your accomplishments and he’ll tag you as someone who doesn’t have any confidence in her own knowledge and skills.