Interview prep

Tie your strengths and weaknesses to the job description

We looked at the top 5 strengths in every major tech description.

Job interviews require a staggering amount of self-awareness. One of the most dreaded (and personal) interview questions is:

What is your greatest strength/greatest weakness?

Recruiters are probing for honesty, commitment to personal growth, and ability to learn from mistakes.

To avoid a TMI gaffe, tailor your answers to the job description and research the interview process ahead of time. Choose personal strengths that enhance your perceived suitability for the role and avoid weaknesses that detract from it. For a sales position, “having trouble delegating” is a negligible weakness; “fear of rejection” is not.

We've done a bit of research into the most common people skills mentioned in tech job descriptions . For each one, we've listed examples of strengths (and weaknesses) that demonstrate you’re a fit by having transferable skills. Whatever your skillset, remember to bring concrete examples of times you applied your skills in the workplace.

UX Designer: What Skills To Highlight?

1. "Effective relationship builder; ability to partner cross-functionally."

Strengths: Empathy, listening skills, confidence, open-mindedness

As you create design deliverables, you’ll gather input from other teams. This means partnering with developers, product managers, and users. Every team has different needs for UX: engineers need mock-ups and wireframes, marketing benefits from user research, sales needs customer journeys get the idea. Understanding how you can help makes you indispensable.

2. "Strong presentation skills."

Strengths: Public speaking, confidence, an eye for visuals

Persuasiveness and compelling oration are key to moving UX projects forward. You’ll need presentation skills to extract the best user insights during research and testing. Presentation becomes even more crucial afterwards, when you present your findings to management and sell them on a recommended course of action.

3. “Be calm and professional under pressure."

Strengths: Time management, managing ambiguity

Agile teams move at lightning speed. Their goal is to release a minimum viable product, “fail quickly”, and iterate. Some companies prioritize quality instead, and expect top-notch work in the shortest possible time frame. Products may exhibit defects in the beginning, so you might find yourself juggling multiple problems at once.

4. "Ability to communicate complex concepts clearly across different audiences."

Strengths: Writing, communication

Aside from explaining design to non-UX people, you’ll need to advocate for your research. UX designers spend most of their time pitching ideas and ensuring the customer is heard. You’ll need to convince various teams by appealing to their interests. For instance, sales is interested in why a certain product feature causes customer churn, while marketing wants to reduce website bounce rate.

Acceptable weaknesses:

  • Bluntness
  • Must work in a team in order to thrive
  • Lacking a certain technical skill
  • Corrigibility (your initial theories may be disproved by user research)

Software Engineer: Critical Skills for Your Resume

1. "Fast-paced, high-energy work environment.”

Strengths: Deadline-oriented, thrives under pressure, responds quickly to changing priorities

Software requirements change continuously because of bugs, market conditions or competitive products. With many engineers working on the same product simultaneously, you may need to undo certain code changes or fix bugs to alleviate “downstream effects.” You may also be on a tight production timeline contingent to a product launch or company event.

2. "Ability to deal with ambiguous, undefined problems.”

Strengths: Problem-solving skills, analytical skills, critical thinking

Problem-solving is an engineer’s most sought-after skill. Much of your time is spent “debugging”—detecting and correcting errors and bugs—and the answers are rarely obvious. Show that you have experience interpreting business requirements, helping executives frame problem statements, or working with product teams.

3. "Being a champion for the customer and ensuring their needs always come first."

Strengths: User empathy, customer focus

At every stage of the software development life cycle, engineers must make decisions that benefit the end user and the business. Many engineers leave it up to UX teams to own user requirements, and QA teams to clean up their code. Engineers that stand out take the initiative and collaborate.

4. "Innovative, highly motivated, ability to learn quick, self starter."

Strengths: Self-motivated, entrepreneurial, fast learner

Engineers must update their skills consistently to master new programming languages and technology changes. Contributing to open-source projects on GitHub, mentoring a junior developer, or learning a new programming language shows you're dedicated to professional development.

5. "Excellent documentation skills."

Strength: Writing skills

Documentation can make or break software production, determining whether teams stay on budget and launch on time. You may also need to write ReadMe files that instruct users how to install and use the software. Blogging experience or a general aptitude for writing goes a long way.

Acceptable weaknesses:

  • Public speaking/presentations
  • Spontaneity (you don’t like to work unprepared)
  • Delegating tasks
  • Shyness
  • Lacking a certain nonessential technical skill

Product Manager: Skills That All Employers Want

1. "Unrelenting self-motivation and initiative; an enthusiastic 'can-do' attitude."

Strengths: Work ethic, self-motivation, enthusiasm

As the main liaison between engineering, marketing, sales, and support teams, product managers occupy a unique leadership position. Hiring managers want to hire a visionary who motivates others and keeps teams on track with production deadlines. Show that you can inspire others while holding them accountable. 

2. “You are an excellent communicator and an expert in presenting to sales as well as customers."

Strengths: Communication/presentation skills

Most PMs have no direct reports, given the intersection of their role. This means you have to influence others even without explicit authority. Employers will gauge your ability to cultivate a shared vision between disparate teams by communicating in ways that resonate with them.

3. "Operating effectively, even when things are not certain or the way forward is not clear."

Strength: Leadership skills

Ambiguity is a staple of product development. When user testing shows negative uptake or an engineering team falls behind, PMs need to right the ship. When describing your leadership skills, demonstrate your experience setting things right after a project nosedives. Show that you can hold teams to account and prescribe a new way forward if Plan A fails.

4. “Creating new and better ways for the organization to be successful.”

Strengths: Leadership, project management

PMs are idea machines for advancing product or business strategy. The best ones encourage collective brainstorming not just as an activity but a culture. They’re also entrepreneurial; they constantly observe goings-on internally and externally and suggest improvements.

5. "Passion for understanding customer needs and using great design to elegantly solve problems."

Strength: User empathy

PMs make trade-off decisions every day between customer needs and business requirements. While user empathy is a desirable quality, take it a step further and show that you understand how to create a cost-effective customer experience.

Acceptable weaknesses:

  • Impatience
  • Bluntness
  • Self-critical
  • Controlled
  • Aggressive (but not too aggressive)

Data Scientist: Skills That Will Make You Stand Out

1. "Business acumen in the areas of the business operations, industry practices and emerging trends."

Strengths: Problem-solving, revenue focus

Statistical computations are only useful if they unearth insights that touch the bottom line. Show that you’re revenue-focused and understand which data insights matter most, not only to senior management, but other parts of the organization.

2. “Experience writing and speaking about technical concepts to business, technical, and lay audiences."

Strengths: Communication, listening, storytelling

Data scientists must communicate complex information to internal (and sometimes external) audiences. You must be able to adapt your communication style to your audience and eliminate jargon. If your strength is storytelling or using visuals, mention those. Perhaps you even have experience explaining your job to very young children.

3. "Strong organizational, planning, and time management skills."

Strength: Time management

In data science, time management pertains not only to meeting deadlines, but knowing when a project is complete. There are virtually no limits to how much you can clean data or do exploratory data analysis. Show that you can do these within a reasonable time frame and depth of analysis. 

4. "Analytical skills with good problem-solving ability."

Strengths: Analytical thinking, problem-solving

Analytical skills hinge on your ability to infer business trends or customer pain points from data. Emphasize your aptitude for spotting the unexpected and telling new stories with data that benefit the business.

5. “Demonstrable track record of dealing well with ambiguity."

Strengths: Patience, problem-solving

Data scientists need to work with management to frame problem statements to set the scope for their data analysis. Often, business executives don’t fully understand their data or their customers. Patience and a willingness to teach non-technical people how to understand data insights are key strengths for this role.

Acceptable weaknesses:

  • Overly detail-oriented
  • Self-critical
  • Over-cautious
  • Independent
  • Blunt

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