What are your strengths and weaknesses?

"What are your strengths and weaknesses?" It's a two-parted question that you can expect in almost every job interview. Most applicants find it difficult to formulate an adequate answer. Because you don’t want to brag about yourself too much, nor do you want to give an elaborate description of all your downsides. Everyone has some weaknesses though, but it all comes down to the way you present them. The Core Quadrant Model by Ofman will help you formulate the perfect answer by transforming your weaknesses into a positive story.


Having the ability to name your negative traits is not only a sign of self-knowledge, you will also come across as more balanced than when you only emphasize your positive attributes. So try to be honest in your answer, but also add how you take them into account and make them harmless.

Perfectionism is by far the go-to cliché answer to give when someone is asked about his negative traits. Many people choose perfectionism because this trait also has a positive connotation. Having an eye for detail has never been considered a sin. According to the Dutch management coach Daniel Ofman you can find a negative side to every positive personality trait you can imagine. Ofman’s Core Quadrant Model can help you turn your weaknesses into a positive story.

The Core Quadrant Model

Core Quality
Every person has some clear strengths. You are usually born with these qualities and they characterize you as a person. Get to know your core strengths by asking yourself these questions: "What do others appreciate in me? What am I really good at?"

A core quality can become a pitfall when being too strongly present in your behaviour. The pitfall is the negative extreme of the core quality. Pitfalls can be discovered answering this question: "What do others sometimes blame me for?”

The challenge is the positive opposite of the pitfall. It's something to constantly keep in mind and that you need to work on. You can ask yourself here: "What quality do I miss in myself, or what don’t I do enough?”

The allergy is the extreme of the challenge. It is a feature that really annoys you. Working together with others who have this trait can be a drag. This is also the negative opposite of your core quality. In order to discover your allergies, you can ask yourself these questions: "What acts of others do I hate? What behaviour would I detest if I did it myself?"


Turn your weakness into your strenght

Now, when you are in a job interview and you are asked about your negative traits, you can work with the extreme of one of your core qualities (core quality → pitfall). Also immediately add how you take it into account and what you consciously do about it (pitfall → challenge).

An example from Ellen’s job interview:
I'm fairly decisive (core quality). I easily weigh the pros and cons of various options so I don’t hesitate too long. When working in a group or when in a meeting I will often be the one who takes the decisions because of this. I've noticed in the past that for some this may come across as pushy (pitfall). Therefore I try to consciously pay attention to being more patient, in order to give everyone a chance to express their opinion (challenge).

If Ellen got the question which type of people she would rather not work with, she could respond that she has difficulties with people who adopt a passive attitude and who are always indecisive (allergy).


In her reply, Ellen turned her weakness into a strength by linking it to a core quality and to a concrete, solution-oriented approach. This can be done with each personality trait.

For instance:
A quality orientation can pass into perfectionism with the challenge of finding the right balance between quality and efficiency.
A structured approach may result in a lack of flexibility with the challenge to be open for alternative solutions and new ideas.
If you’re a quiet person who doesn’t worry too fast, but therefore doesn’t always act in time, then it may help to impose yourself with deadlines.
And so on...

Do you succeed in filling in one or several core quadrants?


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