"So, what's your biggest weakness?"
We’ve all been asked it. Most of us dread it. Yet they way you answer it differentiates you from the other applicants being interviewed.
Your response can tell the interviewer a lot about your character and, in turn, holds a lot of weight. It can often be a make-or-break moment as well. Employers understand that, so what kind of responses are they looking for? It’s not a trick question and there is no ‘right’ answer, but interviewers are looking for something specific in your response to this query. Here are some helpful tips for how to tackle this question in your next interview.
Be aware of your weakness, and how you’ve conquered it
Hiring managers who ask you to elaborate on your weaknesses are looking for examples of how a person has faced obstacles in the past. Everyone has flaws, but how you have dealt with the failures and the steps you have made to fix them indicates how you will handle constructive criticism in the future. If you’ve been given constructive criticism or feedback from supervisors or colleagues in previous workplaces, reflect on what it was about. Were you too focused on the small details? Didn’t speak up enough in meetings? These can all be turned around by giving concrete, specific examples of how you overcame them.
“A great candidate is always looking for ways to learn and improve, [while] a fabulous candidate then takes the initiative to improve.” - Pamela Skillings, job coach and co-founder of Big Interview
Have a few ideas in mind, but don’t prepare an exact response
While it’s important to be prepared for every common interview question (especially tricky ones like this), your answer will come across as inauthentic or staged if you have entirely rehearsed a response. Your answer will change slightly according to the rest of the conversation with the hiring manager.
Make sure your weaknesses are relevant to the job!
A common mistake is being too candid and confessing a weakness that may in fact be a hinderance to your ability to excel in the role. This includes avoiding personal drama, and if possible, personal weaknesses. A major red flag would be anything that may indicate potential problems with your performance moving forward, like “I tend to lose my patience when I am not understood the first time,” or “I am always late for work”.
Skillings’ advice for job seekers is to choose a weakness that is relatively minor and “fixable,” such as “I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups” (you can get better through learning new skills and practice - a common development area).
Avoid the common mistake of turning a negative into a positive
By sharing a supposed weakness that is actually a desirable quality in an employee, such as “I am too much of a perfectionist,” or “I work too hard sometimes,” your interviewer will likely see right through it. In fact, this approach may make them think that you are hiding something.
Pro tip: When in doubt, use the sandwich method
Andrew G. Rosen, the founder and editor of career advice blog Jobacle.com, suggests sandwiching in a weakness in between two or more of your strengths. He also believes that you should end the discussion by reminding the hiring manager about your strengths.
Be confident, even if you don’t feel like it
Rosen reminds job seekers that employers ask the “weakness” question as a test of your ability to carry yourself. Be concise with your response, smile, and be sincere.
What's your weakness and how have you overcome it? What other interview questions have you stumped? Connect with us on twitter and let us know!