Have you ever fielded this question?
Interviewer: “OK, this is a question I like to ask in all my interviews. I hate traditional, ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ questions, because the answers seemed canned. So, here’s my answer to that.
“Everyone has a trait that can be both their greatest strength and also their cross to bear. For example, I am opinionated and outspoken” he tells me. “This is great because I am not afraid to share my thoughts on anything, even (and especially) if I disagree with others. This allows me to get things done, because I’m not afraid of debate. On the other hand, I can come across as an a-hole, which is fair. What is your trait?”
Well played interviewer, well played. I now have to evaluate my strengths for weaknesses. So, what is both my biggest strength and greatest liability, the thing I cannot change, the thing that makes me well, me?
Here’s how I answered:
“I am strong-willed and determined. My parents have been telling me that for as long as I can remember. I am successful at almost everything I decide to accomplish. I was accepted into Kellogg despite a below-their-average GMAT score (which was crazy high, especially for someone who had spent the last decade working). I started my own business against the advice of well-meaning family and friends, made it successful and sold it a few years later. I’m great at staying the course when I believe in what I’m doing and won’t let anyone – or anything – stand in my way.
“I’m sure you can guess that being strong-willed has its downside. I can come across as stubborn and inflexible. I can also lose sight of the world around me if I become too focused. It’s a work in progress.”
None of us are perfect (at least I’ll speak for me) and our traits are what make us unique. I like being strong-willed and doubt I could change it if I wanted to (spoiler alert: I don’t). But at the same time, I don’t want to be at odds with people all the time. So, I pick my battles and practice diplomacy. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail spectacularly. After all, it is my strength to bear.
How about you? What do you consider your strength to bear? Would you use this question in an interview? Please share your thoughts below in the comments!