List of Strengths and Weaknesses for Job Seekers in 2021

By Mike Simpson

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” is probably one of the scariest interview questions on the planet.

Why?

Because you essentially have to walk a tightrope to nail it.

One, you have to come across as genuine. That means no canned replies or a bunch of cliches that the hiring manager won’t buy.

Two, you have to share your strengths without coming across like an arrogant braggart.

Three, you need to discuss an actual weakness while still coming across like an awesome candidate.

Challenging, right?

Well, luckily, it doesn’t have to be as rough as it initially looks. By reviewing a comprehensive strengths and weaknesses list, you can get a grip on the kinds of traits and skills you should discuss. Additionally, by exploring how to approach each item, you can make sure that you stand out as a stellar candidate while being genuine.

So, let’s take a look at the world of strengths and weaknesses, including what they are, how to emphasize the right traits and skills, and those strengths and weaknesses lists.

What Are Strengths? What Are Weaknesses?

You can’t talk about your strengths and weaknesses if you don’t know what those terms mean. On a good note, it’s pretty simple stuff.

Generally speaking, a strength is either something you’re good at or something you have going for you. It can be skills or traits, as long as they are beneficial and help you excel.

Weaknesses, on the other hand, are things that hold you back or slow you down. Again, these can be skills or traits. The main defining characteristic of a weakness is that it represents an area where you tend to struggle, and that the struggle hinders you in some way.

Whether you’re facing off against the “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” interview question, you need to make sure that the traits and skills you discuss are aligned with the job. If the strength or weakness isn’t relevant to the role, your answer is a miss.

MIKE’S TIP: Yes, it may seem crazy to mention a shortcoming that matters to the role, but it’s actually the better choice. If you try to get around the “What is your greatest weakness?” question by mentioning a skill or trait that isn’t relevant to the job, the hiring manager might think you’re intentionally hiding something or that you’re being disingenuous. The thing is, if you’re honest about your capabilities and then pivot properly, you will make a stronger positive impression than if you try to scoot past this question. So, be brave, be bold, and review our tips about how to pivot to handle this topic like a rock star.

The same goes for when you create a list of strengths for your resume and cover letter. If they aren’t relevant to the position, you’ve picked the wrong ones. Aligning your skills with the job you want to land is resume writing 101, so make sure the ones you include match the position. But more about that in a second.

Where to Emphasize One’s Strengths

Alright, as we just mentioned, you want to discuss your strengths during your interview, on your resume, and in your cover letter. But that’s not all; you also want to emphasize them in the right way.

Let’s start with the resume. A corporate job opening usually gathers 250 resumes. That’s a lot of competition.

Plus, when recruiters skim resumes, you may only get 7.4 seconds of their time to make a good impression with your resume. Crazy, right?

Knowing that, it may seem like simply creating a list of strengths, slapping some bullet points on that, and popping that into your resume would be a great way to catch their eye in that brief time. The thing is, it isn’t a great idea. That approach doesn’t have much oomph. Why? Because you’re making claims that you aren’t backing up.

Instead of just tossing a list of strengths on your resume, and use the list as inspiration. Pick the ones that align with the must-have skills and traits you find in the job ad. Next, identify accomplishments where you put those skills to work. Then, discuss those achievements, ensuring you mention your strengths when you do. Done!

You can use a similar technique when creating your cover letter. Use examples to share your strengths, not just a list. That way, you’re backing up your claims. You aren’t just saying what you have; you’re showing that you can put those skills and traits to work.

For interviews, break out the Tailoring Method when you prepare answers to common job interview questions. The Tailoring Method is all about aligning your responses with the exact position, ensuring you highlight the right strengths in the proper way. It makes your answers ridiculously compelling and relevant, which is what great interviewing is all about.

List of Strengths

Alright, you’re probably wondering, “What should I have on my list of strengths?” Well, that depends. In a grander sense, you should have a mix of skills and traits that help you succeed professionally that also align with your field, industry, and target role. Exactly what that looks like will vary from person to person, but that’s the gist.

But are some strengths relevant to essentially every job? Yes, some are almost universally relevant. Traits are more likely to fall in that category, but certain skills can, as well.

Here’s a quick list of strengths that can work for most jobs, divided into categories:

Communication

Nearly every job requires you to work with other people. Whether that’s tackling group projects with a team, engaging with a customer, or anything in-between, communication is part of the program.

Any communication-oriented strengths can be valuable to employers. Here’s a list of communication strengths you may want to highlight:

  • Active listening
    • Collaboration
    • Conflict resolution
    • Empathy
    • Negotiation
    • Persuasion
    • Public speaking
    • Written business communications
    • Verbal communication

Leadership

Whether you’re in a leadership role or what to show you have leadership potential, showcasing the right skills can make a difference. They demonstrate your ability to guide and support others, as well as play a role in the company’s overall success.

Here are some leadership-oriented strengths that might help you stand out.

    • Boosting engagement
    • Conflict resolution
    • Decision-making
    • Delegation
    • Delivering constructive feedback
    • Meeting facilitation
    • Mentoring
    • Morale management
    • Organization
    • Patience
    • Planning
    • Strategic planning

Reliability

Every hiring manager wants to find a new hire they can count on. That’s why strengths that indicate reliability are so highly sought. Often, they signal that a candidate will handle their responsibilities, including everything from arriving to work on time to tackling their individual duties.

Reliability is important for every job. So, here’s a quick list of reliability-oriented strengths to show that you’re on the level:

    • Accuracy
    • Accountability
    • Detail-oriented
    • Determination
    • Diplomatic
    • Engaged
    • Focus
    • Honesty
    • Professionalism
    • Polite
    • Resilient
    • Respectful
    • Responsible
    • Self-motivated
    • Strong work ethic
    • Tactful
    • Trustworthy

Teamwork

In most cases, at least some of your duties involve engaging with a team. Skills and traits that help you do that successful are definitely strengths, as they help you navigate challenging interpersonal situations and collaborate more effectively.

If teamwork is a big part of the job, highlighting the right strengths is a must. Here’s a list of teamwork-related strengths that can show you have what it takes:

    • Collaboration
    • Enthusiastic
    • Helpful
    • Friendly
    • Negotiation
    • Open-minded
    • Supportive

Thought Process and Mindset

How your mind works can actually be a strength. How you collect, assess, and organize information mentally impacts your overall performance. The same goes for how you approach decisions and solve problems.

In many cases, all of these traits make you more effective in your role. Here’s a list of thought process and mindset-related strengths:

    • Analytical thinking
    • Adaptability
    • Creativity
    • Decision-making
    • Efficiency
    • Flexibility
    • Good judgment
    • Innovative thinking
    • Logical thinking
    • Open-mindedness
    • Problem-solving
    • Versatility

List of Weaknesses

Many people try to masquerade a strength as a weakness. While you might think you’re being slick, that isn’t usually the case. Most hiring managers know how to see through the cliches. So, if you try to cop-out, things probably won’t turn out the way you’d hoped.

Luckily, by picking the right shortcomings, you can keep yourself in a decent position overall. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here is a list of weaknesses that may work for you, and why they are worth considering:

    • Afraid to speak in front of a crowd – many jobs involve speaking up in front of a group, such as leading staffing meetings, making this a weakness that can cause trouble at work
    • Being a people-pleaser – if making people happy means you take on too much or can’t say “no” when you should, it is technically a weakness
    • Can’t delegate – if you’re in a leadership position but hate giving up control so much that you struggle with delegating, that’s a weakness you can discuss
    • Extreme bluntness – while being straightforward can be a strength, if your blunt to the point that people perceive you as rude, aloof, or standoffish, you might be dealing with a weakness
    • Overly critical of yourself – if you get down on yourself for every misstep, you’re destroying your own morale, and that’s not a good thing
    • Struggle to ask for help – having trouble asking for help when it’s needed could mean that projects fail simply because you didn’t reach out, causing it to be a pretty significant weakness
    • Too detail-oriented – if you spend so much time worrying about the details that you never finish (or, at least, don’t finish on time), you’re dealing with a weakness
    • Too nonconfrontational – if you avoid conflict to the point where problems fester, or you’re compromising in a way that isn’t beneficial to the company, this can count as a weakness

How to Deal with Weaknesses

Alright, talking about your strengths isn’t nearly as hard as discussing your weaknesses. It’s weird to have to highlight something negative about yourself, especially when you’re trying to impress a hiring manager.

The thing is, when you are asked to talk about your greatest weakness, you don’t have to discuss it a lot. Instead, you want to mention what it is, provide an example of why it’s a legitimate weakness, and then pivot to the positive.

What kind of positive? Well, it depends on the exact interview question you’re facing.

If the hiring manager asks you, “What is your greatest weakness?” we’ve actually discussed that in-depth before. However, for a quick overview, begin by touching on a weakness briefly. Say what it is and mention the lessons you learned because of it.

After that, you should pivot by covering the steps you are taking to overcome your shortcoming. By doing that, you come across as self-aware, proactive, and willing to learn. All of that works in your favor.

Now, if you’re asked, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” your approach needs to be a little different. While you’ll certainly tap on everything above, you also have to go further and talk about all of the good stuff you bring to the table.

We’ve also covered how to talk about your strengths before. By reviewing those examples, you can see how to craft that part of your answer.

Just make sure that, if you get the two-part question, you always lead with your weaknesses and then talk about your strengths. That way, you end on a high note, ensuring your final impression is as positive as possible.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, the list of strengths and weaknesses above can help you navigate questions that ask you to discuss those kinds of skills and traits. Use them as reference points. Then, learn how to talk about your strengths and weaknesses the right way, ensuring you’re able to navigate those interview questions with poise, professionalism, and a solid dose of authenticity.

Good luck!

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