How do you respond to the dreaded interview question: What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
First, it's important to keep your answer fairly brief and within context of your work environment. It's best to list about two strengths. (As opposed to saying, "I thought you might ask that question. That's why I prepared THIS," and then unfurling a 9-foot list of greatest qualities.) If you list seven or eight strengths, it could get pretty tiresome for the interviewer. And unfurling a 9-foot list of your weaknesses might show admirable honesty, but it will send the interviewer fleeing to her pile of resumes.
Context is important too. No one cares that you can benchpress small cars or that you hold the current world's record for Milk Dud consumption. It may be interesting (or not) but it in no way demonstrates what makes you more qualified for the position you're interviewing for. You should name a quality you have—that you don't panic under pressure, for example—and then recount a work experience in which that quality saved the day. Maybe a server went down in the last company you worked for and you were the only one who kept a level head and was able to pinpoint the problem faster than any of the others.
Another tip is to make your weaknesses work in your favor. For example, you can tell a hiring manager that you tend to be impatient, as long as you demonstrate how that impatience manifested itself in a positive way, e.g., you had to ride herd on some co-workers to get a project finished on time.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.