We all have weaknesses but what are appropriate to share in a job interview, and how can you be honest without reducing your chances of getting the job? Here’s how to approach this difficult question.
How To Answer This Typical Job Interview Question
There is no better feeling than going for an interview for a job you really want and feeling like you are sailing through. You are answering the questions well, you are showcasing your fantastic experience and skillset and then the interviewer hits you with the one question that can stop the most prepared of interviewees in their tracks; what are your weaknesses?
It may seem weird that you are there to show off what you are good at, and then they are asking you a question where the answer could potentially hinder your chances of getting hired.
Why Do Interviews Ask About Your Weaknesses?
In order to answer this question well, it’s important to understand why they ask the question in the first place.
The interviewer is trying to get past the ‘interview façade’ that potential employees put on when they are interviewing for a new job. Everyone is doing their best to impress when it comes to interviews, but these weakness questions are there to see the real you and see how self-aware you are.
This is where you can either keep your cool and give a great answer or potentially say something that may affect your chances of getting the job.
How Can The Weakness Question Be Asked?
There are a few ways an interviewer can ask this question.
- What is your biggest weakness? – Sometimes they will just outright ask you what your weaknesses are. This is probably the best scenario from an interviewee point of view as it is direct and you can prepare for it
- If I could ask your previous boss, what would they say your weaknesses are? This question is designed to see how self-aware you and how you think you are perceived by colleagues and bosses
- If you could change something about yourself, what would it be? This is a softer version of the questions above, but the answer should be fairly similar
How Not To Answer A Question About Weaknesses
I’ll start by telling you how to not answer questions about your weaknesses:
- Saying something that is obviously a positive (and often a lie) – phrases like “I work too hard” or “I am too much of a perfectionist” are generally ridiculous and the interviewer will see right through it
- Not answering the question at all – this will come across as if you haven’t prepared for the interview or that you have something to hide
- Giving them a weakness that will seriously affect your work – if you are going for a construction project manager role and you say something like “I find it hard to organise my time”, this will immediately raise a red flag for the interviewer as they will feel you could miss deadlines and meetings that will stop you from fulfilling your role
How To Answer The Weakness Questions Correctly
So, how should you answer the weakness question and improve your chances of getting the job?
CHOOSE A ‘GOOD’ WEAKNESS
You are trying to highlight a weakness that isn’t a massive handicap for the role you are applying for. It is important to take these points into consideration:
- Choose a weakness that is relatively small and can be fixed with a little bit of work
- Make sure the weakness is ‘acceptable’ for the role you are interviewing for
- Be sincere
Demonstrate That You Are Working On That Weakness
Once you have stated what your weakness is, it is best to then say what you are doing to turn this weakness into a strength. This shows that you can identify weaknesses, can find ways to learn and grow and will take the initiative when needed.
Here is an example of a great answer to weakness related questions:
Interviewer: What are your weaknesses?
Applicant (Structural Engineer): I would say my biggest weakness is presenting and speaking to large groups of people. I know this is something I need to improve on as my career develops so I have been reading books on public speaking and pitching for new business to improve my knowledge and skillset and try and put this into practice in my working day.
To sum up, it is important to choose a weakness that is fairly small and can be worked on, isn’t a major barrier to you undertaking the responsibilities of the role and should be answered concisely and sincerely.
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