Talking about strengths and weaknesses in a CV
“What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” is a classic job interview question, so common that it’s almost become a cliché. Thanks to a simple Google research, you will find a plethora of strategies and advice on how to answer it appropriately.
However, before you can impress a prospective employer by answering this question during your interview, you will have to prompt a recruiter to call you through your carefully prepared, professional resume. But how to address your strengths and weaknesses in a CV?
As you may well know, the space in your resume is limited (most experts advise to keep the CV between 1 to 2 pages) and should be used wisely. It’s a chance for you to grab the HR manager’s attention and convince them that you have exactly the professional profile they’re looking for. It should be an incisive, straight-to-the-point document that focuses on your top skills.
Keep reading to learn about adding your strengths and handling your weaknesses in a resume.
How to assess your strengths to include in a CV
Most people start by thinking about what they’re good at. There are different types of strengths that you may divide your skillset into:
- Technical and job-specific skills. These are the ones you have accumulated during years of education, training, and work experience in your field. They are important for the position you’re applying for and may include specific tools ad software.
- Transferable skills. These are skills that you can transfer from a past, not necessarily related occupation to a new industry.
- Personal skills. Some qualities are innate: you may be a natural communicator and public speaker even if you haven’t been formally trained as such, or you may have a keen eye for detail.
Although job seekers are tempted to include all of the above in their CV, this may work against them. Keeping the resume relevant should be amongst the top priorities of all candidates and this may mean having to leave some skills out.
What are the top strengths employers look for?
When tailoring the CV to a specific opening, applicants should always look at the job ad closely. From the set of skills required, they should then identify their particular strengths, especially those that can be proved.
If job hunting was a Venn diagram, the point where your strengths and the employer’s needs intersect is the one you should focus most of your attention on. It’s ok to exclude things you can do or have been praised for in the past if they will not be applicable in your new occupation, as these will just distract the recruiter’s eye from what will really convince them to hire you.
It’s clear that for every open position and organisation out there, there will be a different list of abilities you should highlight. However, there are some skills that most companies are interested in. Find below a list of key strength examples:
- Reliability. It doesn’t matter the department they’ll work in, all employees must be dependable, professional, and dedicated.
- Communication. You will need to use your communication skills daily in virtually all jobs, from writing emails to participating in meetings and training new team members.
- Critical thinking. If employers are unable to collect and analyse data, draw conclusions, and suggest improvements, it’s unlikely that an organisation will progress and increase their productivity. Critical thinking is typical of individuals who are proactive, decision-makers, and problem-solvers.
How to add strengths to your CV
Once you have identified what are the strongest qualities you can bring to the table, it’s time to find the best way to convey the message.
Simply listing your skills won’t work. It may be true that the recruiter is after a ‘team player’, but writing that description won’t add value to your CV. Including reviews or awards that you have been granted, on the other hand, will make an impression. So will showcasing guides and training materials you have developed independently to help your team.
In order to give evidence of your strengths, you will have to turn the attention to impact and results. Can you give a number or percentage that supports your claims? Can the reader see the details of the positive effect your work had on your company and colleagues?
Make sure to keep it concise and not discursive. Try to make your sentences as short as possible and use bullet points to guide your reader.
Should you add weaknesses to your CV?
Your resume is not the place to discuss weaknesses. Remember that CVs are useful tools for HR professionals to get an idea of a candidate’s profile. On average, they are only able to dedicate seconds to each document. They won’t have the chance to make a detailed assessment of your strengths and weaknesses — that is what the job interview and technical tests are about.
You should also keep in mind that the lack of a specific ability or skill in your resume that is necessary for the job will already work against you. It’s not the case to highlight it yourself.
This doesn’t mean that you should actively hide weaknesses or, even worse, lie on your CV (this is one of the most serious curriculum mistakes applicants can make). It’s still important to prepare to address your gaps and weak spots should the need arise at a later stage in the recruitment process. However, your resume should be the space where you make the strongest possible case for yourself as a future employee.