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How to answer the “weakness” question in an interview

The interviewer won’t be impressed with classics like “I’m a perfectionist”, “I'm a slave to my job" or "I'm a workaholic."  

You're sitting face-to-face with the person you most want to impress - your prospective boss - and he or she is asking you, “What is your greatest weakness?” This is probably one of the most difficult and frequently asked interview question so it’s smart to be well-prepared with a good answer.  Here are some strategies to consider when preparing your answer to the weakness question.

Interviewers really don't care what your weaknesses are

The interviewer simply wants to see how you handle the question and what your answer may indicate about you. They also want to see how well you’ve prepared for this question as you should know it is coming.

Be honest

Answer it honestly in a way that makes you look positive. Mention a genuine weakness, but not one that will disqualify you in the interview.

My area for improvement is…

Highlight a skill that you wish to improve upon and more importantly describe what you are proactively doing to enhance your skills in this area. Being able to say you are actively trying to change your weakness into a strength is a good idea. For example, “My area for improvement is public speaking and I have just enrolled in a toastmaster's course.”

Highlighting an area for improvement demonstrates you are self aware. Describing what you are doing about that weakness demonstrates you are proactive and seek to continually improve your talents.

Name only weaknesses that have little to do with your prospective job

You can nominate a skill you don't actually need on the job, like languages, for example.

Avoid the blatant, overused ones

Examples include “My problem is, I work too hard” or “Perfectionism” or “I am a workaholic incapable of taking lunch breaks”.  With such weaknesses, who needs strengths?  A few employers eat this stuff up, but most will roll their eyes and send you packing.

Behavioral questions

Be sure to have examples dealing with conflict, stressful situations, achievements, initiative, teamwork and leadership. Some interviewers choose not to ask the “weakness” question directly but to couch it in terms of a past experience.

Behavioral questions that draw out deficiencies are: “Tell about the biggest mistake you made in your career and what you learned from it”, or “Give an example when you disagreed with your boss or coworker and how you handled it.''

And finally

 

Choose your weakness before the interview. Limit your answer to one weakness and say what you did in order to overcome it. Overcoming a weakness is actually developing a strength.

 

Being able to discuss your weaknesses also indicates an ability to handle constructive criticism without becoming defensive. It shows a willingness to grow personally and professionally.


Debbie O'Halloran