Most of us are quite apprehensive when asked to present our SWOT analysis at interviews and I’ve personally met so many people who don’t know what SWOT is. They get stuck on this during interviews.
Here are few excerpts from my original article on personal SWOT that was published on rediff [http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2006/sep/08swot.htm]
Coined by the military, SWOT stands for ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’. It aims to identify strengths, improve on weaknesses, utilise opportunities and minimize weaknesses.
Various forms of SWOT question during interviews:
1. Can you highlight some of your strengths and weaknesses?
2. Can you present your SWOT Analysis?
3. Why should we hire you and what are your areas of development / improvement? What opportunities do you foresee for yourself in this job?
4. What threats can you identify in the job we’re offering and how do you think you can tackle them?
What experts say
SWOT is a very helpful tool for HR executives in assessing potential candidates. “Those who know their weaknesses and can openly express themselves through SWOT, have been observed to be able to adjust well in an open work culture. They are firm believers of candour in the workplace and appreciate open feedback for smooth running of an organization. SWOT helps in understanding the career aspirations of an individual and assessing how far he or she is willing to go with the organisation,” says Shikha Kumar, HR Manager, ISHIR Infotech.
<For more expert quotes, refer to my original article on rediff>
Do some homework before you appear for the interview:
. Have participatory sessions with your friends to know more of your strengths and weaknesses.
. List down all your strengths and weaknesses.
. Explore the prospective job/employer/company to identify opportunities.
. Gain more knowledge about the industry to detect threats.
Handling SWOT at interviews
Before the interview, ensure your resume maps to what you might talk about. It should also highlight your strengths.
1. Strengths: Positives you can capitalise on, these should be your ‘key selling points.’
Think of what makes you special. What influences and motivates you? What are your attributes for success? What key traits do you have? You can talk about your personal characteristics here like: Good analytical skills, determination, persistence, etc.
Examples of strengths:
a. Very confident and assertive.
b. Good communication skills.
What the interviewer ‘buys’ is ‘how are these strengths helping in the job he has to offer’ and ‘what is the value they add to the job’. For example, while appearing for a sales job interview, the following strengths can be highlighted:
a. I am very confident and assertive in whatever I do. I have been able to leverage customer service by converting unhappy customers to loyal customers by understanding their problems, educating them, giving them confidence and being able to solve their problems.
b. I have been involved in company presentations and workshops, and have been imparting training. My communication skills help me stand up and put forward my views in front of a group of people.
c. Having worked in customer service for two years, I have good customer service skills and customer relations.
2. Weaknesses: Negative areas you need to improve on.
This is the toughest aspect to think of and share with your future/potential company. Also, this is one area where your answers need to be more diplomatic. Avoid hinting at something that may impact the job execution in your potential company. We all know and admit that no one is perfect. Do not say ‘I don’t have any weakness’. Be realistic and show that you realize and are well aware of your weaknesses. Give confidence to your prospective employer that your weaknesses are not going to hamper your job.
Examples of weaknesses:
a. I sometimes tend to get into too many details that delay execution.
b. I can’t say ‘No’ if someone asks me for help with some work.
Never highlight personal weaknesses like ‘being emotional’, ‘short tempered’ etc.
3. Opportunities: Positive external conditions you can take advantage of.
Talk about various opportunities you foresee in that prospective job. This will show your interest and reflect a positive attitude.
Examples of opportunities:
a. While working with international customers, I may have the opportunity to learn new cultures; newer ways of working that will further help me to provide customised and better services to my customers.
b. By imparting training, I will be able to improve my confidence level and presentation skills.
4. Threats: Negative external conditions you can’t control but can minimize.
There are threats we all face at our workplaces, but we need to know how to survive with them. While talking about ‘threats’, try to foresee the ones you may face at your prospective job.
Examples of threats:
a. Competition for the job I want.
b. Overworking myself by taking on so many responsibilities.
c. Changing job requirements of the field.
Also suggest certain ways you may minimise these threats. For example:
a. Getting trained on certain skills to survive competition for the job.
b. Trying time management to avoid getting overworked.
c. Upgrading my technical skills and proficiencies and keeping abreast of industry changes to cope up with job requirements.
Take away points
. Map your STRENGTHS to your prospective job.
. Avoid hinting at WEAKNESSES that may have a negative impact on your prospective job. Also try to present an improvement plan that you have to overcome these weaknesses.
. Identify OPPORTUNITIES in the prospective job and mention how these can be advantageous to you and help in performing the job better.
. Detect THREATS and present ways to minimise them.