8 Tips to Answering the Greatest Weakness Question
Quick! What is your greatest weakness? It’s not so easy to answer confidently in a few seconds, is it? Yet, in many job interviews, that’s exactly what you’re asked to do. Fumbling the question can get you sent to the slush pile immediately. But if you nail it, it can be the first (or next) step to a successful career.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the 8 steps that you can take to prepare for answering this question in a way that makes you a strong candidate for any position. Let’s get started!
1. Be honest
The first thing to realize is that you’re not going to bluff your way out of it. Telling people that you don’t know shows that you have little ability to self-analyze. Saying you don’t have any weaknesses makes you come across as arrogant. Being honest helps you identify with the interviewer, but you have to be careful how you do it.
All honesty with no upside can make you seem inept.
One useful approach is to focus on a weakness that is not essential for the job. For example, if you are applying for a job that requires excellent written communication skills, you might mention that you have difficulty writing concisely.
Alternatively, you could highlight a strength that has a potential downside. For example, you might say that you are a perfectionist who often spends too much time on tasks. By framing your answer in this way, you can show that you are aware of your weaknesses and are taking steps to address them.
2. Don’t try to hide your weaknesses
Hiding your weaknesses, again, seems deceptive. That’s not at all what a potential employer is looking for. And here’s something else to consider. Anyone who’s ever interviewed for a job has dealt with a variation of the question. There’s a good chance they’ll be able to spot deceptive tactics because they’ve either considered or used them before.
One way to be open about your weaknesses in a job interview is to give a specific example of a time when you faced a challenge and explain what you learned from the experience. For instance, you might talk about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer service issue.
By sharing what you did to resolve the situation and what you learned from it, you can show that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and that you are capable of handling difficult situations. This can help to give the employer confidence in your abilities and give them a better sense of who you are as a person.
3. Be prepared to talk about your weaknesses
You may not face the “greatest weakness” question in every interview. However, you should treat each interview like you will, even to the point of addressing your weaknesses proactively. That is, you should be so willing to talk about your weaknesses that if they’re brought up, they seem like any other question.
Before you head into a job interview, it’s important to take some time to reflect on your weaknesses. This can be a difficult task, but it’s important to prepare for tough questions from the interviewer.
Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, spend some time thinking about how you can explain them in a positive light. For example, if you’re prone to getting nervous in front of large groups, you can emphasize your ability to think on your feet and stay calm under pressure.
By preparing ahead of time, you can go into the interview with confidence, knowing that you’re ready to discuss your weaknesses in a way that will impress the hiring manager. You can also focus on stories with successful outcomes where told in a way that highlights some of your inner doubts.
For example, you might have been uncertain of yourself at the cash register at your first job and heard an inner voice doubting your ability to handle it based on past experiences. However, you were able to quell that voice and focus on one thing at a time until you successfully made it through your first rush.
4. Be positive about your weaknesses
It’s possible to acknowledge weaknesses in a positive way. Without BS. Without trying to fool anyone or put a transparent spin on things. For example, “I can get a little short-tempered when my plans get disrupted by others. It can make me feel inconvenienced and even injured by the other person. But one trick I’ve learned in dealing with it is to empathize with the other person’s circumstances. Maybe they feel the same way due to something they experienced on the way to work or school.”
Mixing self-reflection and empathy in this way doesn’t transform your negative qualities into good. It simply shows a constructive way of handling a negative, and employers will fall for a candidate who can pull this off seamlessly.
5. Focus on your strengths
No one likes being asked about their weaknesses in a job interview. However, it is possible to use this question to your advantage. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, try to emphasize your strengths.
For example, if you are applying for a position that requires creativity, you might say that you sometimes have trouble staying focused on one task for an extended period of time. However, you can also spin this into a positive by saying that the variety keeps you from getting bored and allows you to bring your creativity to bear on multiple projects.
In other words, instead of trying to avoid the question, use it as an opportunity to show how your strengths can benefit the employer.
6. Practice talking about your weaknesses
Nobody wants to talk about their flaws. But unfortunately, it’s something that interviewers often ask about. The key is to be prepared with an honest, yet positive answer.
But preparation is the key. How do you prepare to give those answers? The first thing to do is to find someone willing to hear you out who has no direct involvement with the job interview. Perhaps they’ll put you through a mock interview.
Find somewhere quiet you can go distraction-free. Consider recording the back-and-forth so you can go back and learn from it later. In fact, this is a good tactic to use even if it’s just you in front of a mirror practicing your responses.
You have to get used to saying the words out loud and hearing yourself say them. This is the only way you’ll be able to sound natural when you’re in front of the interviewer.
7. Understand what the interviewer is really asking
When interviewers ask about your greatest weakness, they are typically looking for two things: honesty and self-awareness. They want to know if you are able to honestly assess your own skills and areas for improvement and whether you have the motivation to work on those areas.
If you say that you have difficulty staying organized, the interviewer may follow up by asking how you plan to compensate for that weakness. On the other hand, if you try to sugarcoat your answer or avoid the question entirely, the interviewer may view you as being disingenuous or unwilling to face your weaknesses head-on.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Before a job interview, it is always helpful to have someone review questions with you so that you can be as prepared as possible. While you may feel comfortable interviewing with family and friends, sometimes it can be helpful to get professional help.
If you have a local career center or job placement office, they may offer mock interviews with staff members. This can give you the opportunity to practice your questions and get feedback in a low-stress environment.
If you know someone who works in the same field as the position you are applying for, they can also be a great resource. They may be able to share insights about the company culture or common interview questions. Ultimately, anyone who can help you feel more confident and prepared for your interview is a valuable asset.
Never Fear the Greatest Weakness Question
The Greatest Weakness question may seem like the “big bad” of your job interview, but you should never be intimidated by it. Remember that everyone has weaknesses. Having them is normal. Letting them dictate your life is not. To be a good candidate for a job, you need to learn how to operate productively.
That means showing the job interviewer that you’re at peace with having a weakness because you have control over it. Hopefully, the tips above will get you ready to confront this question head-on. Have you ever encountered it in a job interview? Share some of your tips, tricks, or questions in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by TalkDistrict Public Domain License]