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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Lead With Your Strengths

Dear Sue: I have a job interview tomorrow. I know I probably will be asked to talk about my strengths and weaknesses. I've always wondered how to answer that question. Do you have any ideas? 

- Unsure

Sue Says: It is wise to be prepared for this type of question. Knowing what your strengths are will help you to sell yourself and your abilities. No need to be modest -- if you don't promote your strengths, who will do it for you?

You don't have to come up with a long list of attributes. Focus on one or two of the qualities you possess and provide a work-related example or some information about how this strength has helped you in the past or may help you in the future.

For example, you could say, "I am very patient and relaxed, even under pressure. This has had a calming affect on my other team members, especially during times of stress when we were forced to wait for information that would enable us to bring a project to closure."

Although it is equally important to know yourself well enough to know what your weaknesses are, you don't want to accept this as an opportunity to sell yourself short or convince this person not to hire you. Whatever the weakness is, try to find ways in which the weakness works for you as well. For example you might say something like, "I can become impatient when things aren't moving along as fast as I might like, however, I have found that this has enabled me to move my team forward when we may be stuck and unable to make a decision."

Thinking about your answers ahead of time is helpful and important. The time you took to prepare will be obvious and will most likely be viewed as an additional strength -- and one you won't even have to mention.

Dear Sue: I would like to write a formal letter of resignation to my employer, but am not sure what to say. I recall reading something that said a resignation letter should not include the negative reasons for the departure or be full of complaints. I am wondering why I shouldn't be able to include the problems I've had and the real reasons I am leaving. How should the letter be written? 

- Resigning

Sue Says: You've made the decision to leave. Now you need to decide just how you want to leave and on what terms. Do you want to part amicably? Or do you want to use this as an opportunity to vent about all of the things that have led you to this point? If you do, what do you hope to accomplish as a result?

Without going into all of the specific details, you still have the ability to communicate why you are leaving. Rather than leaving on a negative note or placing blame on anyone, you can still get your point across while remaining fairly vague.

Your reason for leaving could be due to differences that could not be resolved, your desire for a more challenging position or your need for additional opportunity.

The letter should be short and to the point. If management decides to pursue the real reason for your departure, you can provide more details upon request, but sometimes, the less said the better.

You will be much better off leaving on good terms. You never know when or how your paths (with anyone from this company) may cross in the future.

Dear Sue: I had an interview today that I felt went very well. When I left I was told it would be thirty to sixty days before they will make a final decision. I am wondering if I should sit back and see what happens or if I should push for the job. I don't want to be too pushy, but don't want to appear uninterested either. 

- Wondering

Sue Says: Although you don't want to be pushy, if you sit back and wait, you risk appearing uninterested. If you haven't already, start by writing a thank-you note to the person you interviewed with and make sure you express your interest in the position.

Because you were told that a decision wouldn't be made for awhile, you may want to wait a bit before following up by phone. If you haven't heard anything after 3-4 weeks, put in a call to inquire about the position again, and to express your continued interest. After that, based on what you are told, you can decide how to proceed.

Follow up is important and even expected, but be sensitive to what you are told and make sure that you never become a pest.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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