Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The most important aspect of these questions is to make sure that you see yourself realistically for the eyes of a hiring authority. Most people have inflated opinions of their strengths and minimized opinions of their weaknesses. Most of the candidates I've interviewed think they can do most any job they interview for.
But there is a big difference between being able to get the job and actually performing on the job. In my opinion, I might make the best President of the United States that this country has ever seen. But I'm not going to get the job because I'm not going to survive the "interviewing" process. Don't laugh. I can't tell you the number of candidates I've encountered over the years who just knew they could be the best anything they wanted to. But they neglected to take into account first, their ability to really do the job, and second, and most important, their ability to get the job in comparison to all the other candidates who were interviewing for the position.
Most people judge their talent and ability to do a job based on their own personal experience. Most candidates rarely see themselves and their talents relative to the other candidates they're competing with. This happens to the best of us. For example, Michael Jordan was one of the best athletes in the world, but when he went to play baseball, his athleticism wasn't as important as his baseball skills, which weren't as developed as his basketball skills. No matter how much Michael Jordan might have said, "But I'm the best athlete in the world," his baseball skills still couldn't compare with the people he was competing against. Just because he thought he might make a good baseball player didn't mean that he was going to get the job or do well at it. His skills were measured relative to the skills of other baseball players, and, in the end, baseball wasn't his strong suit.
So it is with you. You need to be realistic about not only what you are capable of doing, but also realistic about your ability to qualify for and get the job.
In this same vein, you need to ask yourself questions about your strengths and weaknesses as though you were in the shoes of the hiring authority. Assessing your abilities with only your opinion as a reference will do you no good at all. You have to evaluate yourself based on how a hiring authority, who is interviewing ten people just like you, would evaluate you.
You also have to be aware of your liabilities in the eyes of a hiring authority. As I've emphasized throughout this book, most people do not see anything in themselves or their background that is a risk or liability. But every hiring authority is asking every candidate either bluntly or implied, "What are the risks and liabilities in hiring this person?"
Every one of us has some liabilities in the eyes of a hiring authority. Every hiring authority is evaluating the risk he or she runs of any candidate not working out as a good employee if hired. So, you have to be aware of what your liabilities—either real or perceived—are in the eyes of the hiring authority.
As I established in the previous chapter, if you have been out of work for a long period of time, if you've had too many jobs in the last few years, or if you've been fired or laid off, you may appear as a great liability to a hiring authority. It's then your job in the interviewing process to offset or mitigate those perceived liabilities. But if you don't know what your liabilities are, you will never be able to address and overcome them.
So, with that, here is a list of questions you should ask yourself to assess your strengths, weaknesses, and liabilities:
What are my professional and personal strengths?
Can and do I explain my experience, background, and previous positions clearly and concisely?
How can I demonstrate that my strengths have been benefits to the people I've worked for in the past?
What are two or three of the most important features of my background that will be benefits to a company that I might be interviewing with?
How will I clearly communicate myself and my benefits to a prospective employer?
What are the facts or issues in my background or experience that might be perceived as liabilities to a perspective employer?
How am I going to offset, minimize, or mitigate these perceived liabilities?
Can I turn these perceived liabilities into advantages to a prospective employer? (For instance, if you have had three jobs in three years, you might turn those "lemons" into "lemonade" by stating something like, "You can rest assured in hiring me that I can't afford another one-year stint with any company. Because I have had three jobs in three years, I absolutely plan to stay on this next job at least five to seven years.")
How can I avoid being defensive about the mistakes that I've made in the past? How can I make them positives?
Are the things that I think are important in my background the ones that a prospective employer will think are important?
What makes me unique? What are the three or four of my most important features and benefits that make me a better candidate than my competitors? Is this just my opinion or have others confirmed them?
Remember to look at these answers the way an employer would. An employer needs to minimize risk. If you have made mistakes, admit them. Present them as lessons. Think about how what you say will be compared to other equally qualified candidates.