Assessment tools can help you answer the dreaded interview question “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” says Julie Perrine

It’s a dreaded interview question that we’ve all been asked: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Sharing your strengths can feel like bragging. Sharing your weaknesses can feel like telling them why they shouldn’t hire you. Yet, the reality is we all have strengths and weaknesses. So, it’s important that you understand these things about yourself first. Then it’s much easier to find healthy ways of articulating your strengths and weaknesses – not only during the hiring process, but once you have the job, too.

Using Assessment Tools

Some of the tools I have used to help me confidently answer this question throughout my career are personality and strengths-based assessment profiles. Almost every assessment tool provides a short summary, along with a more in-depth report that can give you positive and productive ways of sharing your strengths and weaknesses with others. These summaries are written in a way that showcase your strengths and make your weaknesses sound normal and unobjectionable. Even better, they usually point out the potential pitfalls of your weaknesses and identify ways for you to work productively to overcome or avoid those pitfalls. I’m a huge fan of using these types of tools in interviews and one-on-one conversations with your executives.

When you read and study these assessments before an interview, the words and phrases will flow much easier when the question is asked. Better yet, once you know more about the position and want to express your interest in pursuing it, offering a copy of your personality or strengths profile can make you stand out. It allows the interviewer to see where you will likely add value in the position if hired. Once you land the job, these tools become a productive means for educating your executive on your communication style, work style, organization style, and more.

Which Tool is the Best?

In my experience, it doesn’t matter what type of personality or strengths-based tool you use – True Colors, DiSC, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, Predictive Index, StrengthsFinder, or Standout. They all have value and provide insight. For the purpose of illustrating how to use these tools, I’m going to share excerpts from my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and CliftonStrengths (formerly known as StrengthsFinder 2.0) assessments.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Overview

My Myers-Briggs type is: ESTJ.

Here’s what my profile report specifically states about the ESTJ personality type.

Assessment Tools: Myers-Brigg

ESTJs are typically logical, analytical, and objectively critical. They like to organize projects and then act to get things done in a systematic, timely, and efficient manner.

ESTJs focus on seeing things as they are, not as they might be. They are matter-of-fact, practical, realistic, and concerned with the here and now. Past experience helps them solve problems, and they want to be sure that ideas, plans, and decisions are based on solid fact.

They like having definite rules to govern the way they do things. If they are to change their way of doing something, they need to change their rules for doing it. Logical and consistent, ESTJs make quick decisions.

Their focus is on the immediate, visible, and tangible. They like to solve problems and organize things and then move on. They have little patience for confusion or inefficiency and may proceed – sometimes with a heavy hand – to help the groups they are part of get the task done.

ESTJs are likely to be most satisfied in a work environment that values setting goals, making decisions, being organized, and getting things done. People can count on them to follow through in an organized, efficient, and practical manner.

Without any additional information about each of the four preference scales, here are some things that jump out of this description and illustrate where I add value to my executives and team members:

  • Logical, analytical, and objectively critical
  • Organizes projects and acts to get things done in a systematic, timely, and efficient manner
  • Likes to solve problems and organize things
  • Can count on me to follow through in an organized, efficient, and practical manner

It also highlights some of my potential areas of weakness:

  • They have little patience for confusion or inefficiency and may proceed – sometimes with a heavy hand – to help the groups they are part of get the task done.

This description also highlights my overall work style, the environment in which I work best, and what frustrates me as I do my work. And this is just the summary.

When you look at the more complete report, there is a wealth of information to consider.

Here are some ways my ESTJ personality type impacts six core team issues. *


ESTJs contribute by sharing what they think in a direct way focusing on what is tangible, practical, and results-oriented. They need to focus on developing tact and diplomacy, so they aren’t seen as too blunt or forceful.

Team Culture

ESTJs display a high energy and commitment to getting things done and challenge others to think and do their best also. They have to guard themselves from being too task-focused, too action-oriented, and not respecting the process in pursuit of an outcome. It’s important for them to pause to consider the people involved before rushing to action and understand that the process is vital for delivering a quality product.


ESTJs contribute by seeking input, providing direction, and developing a results-oriented plan that clearly outlines each person’s responsibilities. It can be tempting to take over and micromanage team members if they aren’t careful. So, learning to detach themselves so others can solve their own problems and try new approaches is key to their success.


ESTJs offer order and structure to managing change. They act decisively with a willingness to take on unpleasant but necessary tasks. ESTJs need to also realize that change cannot always be controlled or mandated, and they may need to look for new solutions instead of relying solely on what has worked in the past.

Problem Solving / Conflict Resolution

ESTJs contribute by supplying a logical structure in which to identify problems and implement solutions. They offer a systematic and realistic critique of an issue. ESTJs can maximize their effectiveness by not rushing to judgement and taking time to consider all sides of an issue, including the feelings of others.


ESTJs contribute to reducing team stress by using their energy, strength, and dependability to help the team manage a crisis and taking responsibility for fulfilling their individual responsibilities. ESTJs need to guard against rigidity and wanting to fit everything into a set structure which can come across as overpowering to others. They can improve their effectiveness when they loosen their standards, step back and let others do things their own ways and realize the best course of action may be to wait or do nothing at all.

*Excerpts from Introduction to Type and Teams workbook, second edition, by E. Hirsh, K.W. Hirsh, S.K. Hirsh, ©2003 by CPP, Inc.

As I read through my Myers-Briggs report regarding each of these six issues, I can think of examples for every single one of them. Studying your profiles more closely before an interview can give you some concrete examples to share for behavioral interview questions you may be asked. Write some notes in the margin so you can review them before the interview and go in prepared. In addition, pull together some work samples that help illustrate these things more visually in your professional portfolio, and leave an even stronger first impression with your interviewers. This is a fantastic way to feel more confident with real examples, instead of being put on the spot and getting tongue-tied.

Personality Type Impact

Your personality type impacts almost every aspect of your work: communication, team culture, leadership, handling change, problem solving/conflict resolution, and stress management. So, understanding how your personality type specifically contributes to each of these is extremely valuable. Being aware of how your type may clash with other team members, and how other team members may clash with you, can make you a more emotionally intelligent, value-added individual – both personally and professionally.

CliftonStrengths Assessment Excerpts

The CliftonStrengths assessment looks at 34 themes and ranks them to determine your “talent DNA.” It also helps to explain how you think, feel, and behave.

My Top 5 Themes

  • Activator
  • Discipline
  • Significance
  • Individualization
  • Responsibility

I’ve highlighted key phrases for two of my strengths that describe what they are and how they typically add value at work.

After reading just two of my five strengths summaries, you can get a clear picture of how I work, where I add value, and what drives me to perform in the workplace. You also get a preview into some of my weaknesses: impatience, perfectionism, and working in bureaucratic environments. My weaknesses are highlighted in such a way that they seem normal. The profile also provides helpful strategies for overcoming them. And it’s all much more eloquent than if I had to describe them.

Everything you do as an admin involves communication and relationship building. Why and how you do what you do is related to your personality preferences, strengths, experiences, and more. And the better you understand personality types, strengths, and communication and work styles, the better you’ll understand how they impact your personal life, career, and your ability to add value in the workplace. That’s emotional intelligence that will help you stand out from day one!

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Julie Perrine is an administrative expert, author, speaker, and all-round procedures pro. She is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, a company dedicated to developing innovative products, training, and resources for administrative professionals ... (Read More)

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