Performing a personal SWOT

“Can you explain what your strengths and weaknesses are?” On hearing this question your heart drops, how can you answer this effectively?

This is one of the most dreaded interview questions and understandably so, as it needs preparation in order to answer it well.

If you are preparing for a job interview or even when undertaking an appraisal with your current employer, it is essential to have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Do you truly know your abilities?

A lot of professionals will have heard of a SWOT analysis from a commercial perspective and may even use it as part of their business planning process, but not many will have considered using it to prepare for an interview.

However, understanding your own personal strengths and weaknesses and then knowing how to positively sell both during an interview will certainly give you an edge. The core elements of a SWOT analysis also align with the format of the questions asked in STAR interviews so, in terms of interview preparation, there is no better tool.

In essence, by analysing yourself via a SWOT analysis you will not only know yourself better, but you will also be able to discover new opportunities and eliminate threats to your career that are driven by your weaknesses.

Interested? Well, here’s how you can do it:

S = Strengths

  • What advantages do you have that others don’t have (for example skills, certifications, education or connections)?
  • What do you do excel at? Is there something that you can say confidently that you do well.
  • What personal resources can you access?
  • What do other people (and your boss in particular) see as your strengths?
  • Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
  • How good is your professional network? Do you have connections with people that the new organisation would find useful or interesting?

W = Weaknesses

  • What tasks do you avoid at work because you don’t feel confident doing them?
  • What would your manager or peers see as your weaknesses?
  • Are you completely confident in your education and skills training? If not, where are your gaps?
  • Do you have any poor work habits such as being late, being disorganised, are you bad at handling stress, do your management skills need some attention?
  • Do you have any areas that cause you anxiety? For example, do you have a fear of public speaking but have to present in public as part of your role?

O = Opportunities

  • What new technology can help you? Or can you get help from other people or undertake some training to maximise your skill set.
  • Is your sector growing? If so, how can you take advantage of the current market?
  • Do you have a network of contacts to help you, or offer good advice?
  • What trends do you see emerging and can you take advantage of them?
  • Are any of your competitors failing to do something important? If so, can you benefit from their mistakes?
  • Do your customers complain about something in your company? If so, could you create an opportunity by offering a solution?

T = Threats

  • What obstacles do you currently face at work?
  • Are any of your colleagues competing with you for projects or roles?
  • Is your job (or the demand for the things you do) changing? Is the company still performing well?
  • Does changing technology threaten your position?
  • Could any of your weaknesses lead to threats?

Avoid being modest or shy. Focus on being realistic, honest answers will provide you with detailed insight into your career trajectory and how you can progress.

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