This may be one of the most difficult questions you can face during the job interview.
It’s one a lot of people forget about because when we are preparing for a job interview, we are thinking about how to get all our strengths across and you wouldn’t exactly wow the interviewer by talking on and on about what you aren’t good at!
So although this question is relatively common in job interviews, it can be very difficult to answer – particularly if you aren’t prepared for it.
The first thing to consider when thinking about this question is why the interviewers ask it. Its easy to think its just to try and trip you up for their own fun but in fact this question serves an important purpose for the interviewer.
What they are looking for is how you answer the question, rather than what you answer.
The reason they ask this question is because they want to see how you respond to a question that is meant to throw you off your game.
Talking about your strengths and how good you are at dealing with the unexpected is all well and good, but this gives the interviewer a chance to see this in action.
So now you know why they are asking the question, this gives you a good chance to answer in the best way – with some preparation of course.
Let’s start with what you want to avoid when answering this question. First and foremost is denial. You know, I know and the interviewer knows that everybody has a weakness so trying to deny it is not going to look good and this could potentially end your chances of getting the job. Secondly, do not use a strength as a weakness.
As clever as this might seem, to try and turn the tables, and not give an actual weakness without using just plain denial, its not.
The interviewer isn’t going to buy it and they want someone authentic to join the company, not a fraud. Speaking of not giving an actual weakness, this is not time to make an awful joke about what your ‘weakness’ is.
Don’t try and make it a joke because this is a serious question. Here is a how a management consultant looks for an answer.
I know this may be some people’s go to escape when they feel under pressure – to make a joke to try and hide the fact they are nervous – but now is not the time for it. And if you prepare for the question, you won’t have the need to go to (often unfunny) jokes.
So now we have covered what not to do in terms of denying or hiding a weakness, you equally don’t want to overindulge.
Don’t start listing off every weakness you think you have and a big hearted explanation as to where these weakness come from, because quite frankly, the interviewer does not want your life story and to become your counselor. Added to this, don’t share a weakness that has nothing to do with the job, for example don’t talk about how you cannot sleep in the same room as a spider etc. Although this is an open question and doesn’t specifically say what is your weakness in relation to the job, that is what the question is about.
Don’t forget you are in a job interview, not a get to know me seminar!
Right, so we’ve covered what not to say when answering this question, lets look at how to answer the question. First things first, you need to work out what your weaknesses are for example, are you shy when you meet new people, are you impatient or are you afraid of change? Whatever weakness you pick, you need to make sure its minor and workable, not one that is instantly going to get your name on the ‘Not Hired’ list.
Once you’ve found your weakness, you need to think about whether or not you are fixing them? How have you addressed the weaknesses and worked around them? Now, once you’ve done this, you need to apply it to the job specifically and how your weakness fits in with this role.
This way we can answer the question in relation to the actual job you are applying for, rather than rambling on about something unrelated and the interviewer may not care about.
When it comes to answering the question in the interview, you want make sure that you do outline the weakness, but also explain how you are working to fix it and you are being proactive about it. If you tell them what your weakness is, they know you are self-aware however if you are making no attempt to work on this weakness and have it under control, the interviewer may think that you uninterested in improving yourself and this may be an undesirable trait.
This is not a question that you can write and learn a script off by heart for. You need to be genuine but also tailor your answer to the job and company you are interviewing for.
You can also not script this question because it is likely that it could be asked in a few different ways.
For example the question could be worded: “What are your greatest weaknesses?” or it could sound more like “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”. Although they are worded differently, both questions are about weakness, however you can’t use word for word answers for both these types of questions.
Remember, what you want to avoid when answering this question is:
• To sound in denial about having any weaknesses.
• Using a strength as a weakness – not matter how cleverly you word it.
• Make your weakness a joke.
• Overindulge and turn the job interview into a therapy session.
And what you want to include when answering the question is:
• A weakness that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
• How you are working on your weakness and keeping it under control.
• Be honest – it is like that the interviewer will follow up this question with further questions relating to your answer. If you are honest then these will be easier to answer, and if you aren’t honest, it won’t take long for the interviewer to work out!