Continuing from the first part of this interview series, where questions like ‘Tell me about yourself’ and ‘why do you want to work for this company’ were answered with examples. Today, we’ll finish up with how to answer questions surrounding weaknesses, strengths and long term career plans.

3. What are your weaknesses? Most of us at some point have heard or been advised to use an attribute and turn it around to appear as a weakness, for example, ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I am a workaholic’. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but recruiters/hiring managers are tired of hearing those lines or similar ones from everyone and pretending not to have a weakness only makes you appear insincere. However, a better way to answer this question will be to describe your weakness within the context of a situation and explain strategies you’re adopting/have adopted to overcome it. This way, you’re displaying self-awareness and your ability to manage difficult situations properly.

For example, in situations where I’m asked to lead a project I’m unfamiliar with I get overwhelmed and spend more time than required on research materials. But, having noticed this pattern over time, I have in recent times limited my research to the immediate focus of the project by writing down the necessary tasks I need to perform and allocating a specific time to complete them. I also leverage on the experience of my colleagues by talking to a colleague who has been involved in a similar project and learning from his/her experience. With this approach, I am able to manage my time and tasks properly and prepare adequately for likely unforeseen circumstances given the experience of other colleagues. 

4. What are your areas of strengths? This is probably a much easier one to answer than ‘what are your weaknesses?’ and a great opportunity to sell yourself again. The key thing here is to highlight those strengths that are highly relevant to the role you’ve applied for and how you can add value to the team using them. Preferably, give examples of how you’ve displayed and developed these skills over time instead of just listing your strengths. In addition, if you have skills that earned you additional responsibilities outside your job/job description, feel free to mention them, but always tie it in with the role/company you’ve applied to. This way you’re reiterating why you’re ‘the better candidate’.

5. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? This question can also be framed as ‘what are your long term/career goals?’ However, you must be careful not to appear to want to take over the hiring manager’s position, particularly if it’s a small company (even if that’s your ultimate goal lol). This is where a background research on the company’s career progression comes in very handy so that your answers are realistic based on the current structure and opportunities within the team and company.

Recent Graduate (0-2 years experience)

I am very keen on developing my knowledge and skills in the information technology sector, particularly with Weyatch Plc seeing as my value system aligns well with that of the company. I’m also interested in understanding the intricacies of the business and becoming a qualified IT specialist over the next 3 years through the study support programme and with the help of work mentors within the company. By applying the knowledge and skills gained, I plan to make significant contributions to the business growth of the team and the company as a whole in areas such as cyber crime security and big data analytics.

Experienced Hire (3-5 years experience)

I will like to be recognised as an industry expert for gas projects in the oil & gas sector within the first 2-3 years by providing innovative technology in process design and identifying opportunities to maximise production for clients. In the following 2 years, I see myself progressing to lead smaller teams within the department, possibly training new entrants on the use of various process simulators and taking on increased responsibilities as the opportunity arises in line with my goals and the company’s strategic plans.

I hope you find this useful in your upcoming interview, whether as a new intake or as an experienced hire. Here are a few leads on websites that are helpful when trying to get company/industry related information 

1. Linkedin – is a good place to get in touch with a former schoolmate who may be able to assist with information on the company. It’s also a good way to look up the recruiter or hiring manager. https://www.linkedin.com/

2. Professional Associations – depending on your career, examples include ACCAICAEWIChemECFA, CIPR amongst others are helpful to keeping you updated on industry trends. 

3. Glassdoor or Indeed – are good websites to check reviews by current and former employees of a company as well as salary range for certain roles.  

I’ll love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment, share and subscribe here.