In my experience, this is an all-too-common interview question. Whether it’s to trip you up, or see if you’ve ever done any introspection, or just to see how honest you are, the question is an easy one to falter on.
The converse question is true in equal measure. A question asking you to define your strengths shows how well you know yourself, your opinion of yourself and how you present that opinion to the world.
So how can you prepare for such a question? I think the best way to answer this is to take some time to really evaluate yourself critically. If you haven’t in the past, a good starting place can be the Myers-Briggs’ Personality Test. This psychological personality profile types people by four functions: extroversion vs. introversion (how you relate to the world), intuition vs. sensing (how you gather information about the world), feeling vs. thinking (how do you decide on information about the world), judging vs. perceiving (how you act on information about the world). These all sound very abstract, but essentially it boils down to the following:
- Do you focus on the internal world or external?
- Do you pick up information and trust this through methods you can’t describe or through using your senses?
- Do you make decisions based on logic or feeling?
- Do you like to have a plan or do you like to improvise?
These four questions may be enough to get you started. If you’d like to take a fuller test and have some analysis, try here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test.
Knowing the answers to these questions will not only benefit you in your interview. They can help you decide important things about where you want to specialise or where you want your career to take you. If you don’t relate well to people but have a passion for medicine, maybe medical research is your path. Perhaps you thrive on empathy and want to heal people and so psychiatry is your specialty of choice.
It also serves you well to give some detail on how you deal with your weaknesses and strengths. Presenting a detrimental weaknesses or too much confidence in a strength can make an interviewer doubt your character and to that, giving some further details does not normally harm. For example, I come up with lots of good ideas, but I don’t always share them for fear of criticism. While this is certainly a weakness, I don’t hesitate to include that I do have lots of ideas and I either find different ways of presenting them (one-to-one instead of groups), or I build my courage and present the idea anyway. Showing that you recognize a weakness or strength and know how to use it to work for you is a great way of showing your adaptability and self-knowledge and how it will apply in your practice.
It can certainly be a scary process to peek through the looking glass and expose yourself so openly, but there’s a reason schools/employers/partners ask us to do this. If gets you comfortable in your own skin and know where you need to do work and what you can provide to others with ease.
“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”