“What’s your greatest weakness?” is the interview question that candidates dread answering – and employers love to ask because of it!
We all have weaknesses, yet at times, we feel ashamed of them.
We’re programmed to look at and play to our strengths, not realizing that some of our greatest strengths can come from treating our weaknesses like to-dos that need to get to-done. 😉
A common fear among job seekers is that answering the weakness question goes against your goal of the interview, which is to convey how awesome and hirable you are.
By merely answering this weakness question is an acknowledgment that NOT everything about you is awesome.
Here’s the kicker – the interviewer already knows that!
Don’t for one second think that hiring managers are ill-prepared by asking such a dumb interview question. On the contrary, hiring managers know exactly what they are doing.
Rather than a “gotcha” moment, the weakness question is intended to determine how self-aware and honest the job seeker can be.
You may even find comfort in knowing that presidential candidates answer the “what’s your weakness” question.
You want to be asked this question, here’s why:
The weakness question sheds light on how emotionally intelligent you are and how forthcoming you are about situational and behavioral issues you’ve faced with your most recent employer or beyond.
Hiring managers are looking for job seekers who are self-aware because those who are:
- Make for better decision-makers
- Proactive with their professional development
- Perceived to be better at their jobs
Knowing your weaknesses means that are mindful of your professional assets and liabilities, which include skills gaps, social inadequacies, skewed perspective, listening skills, and so on.
Here’s How to Become More Self-Aware
If you struggle with identifying potential awareness, there are many positive ways to focus your attention on answering such a dreaded job interview question.
For example, make time for meditation and reflection.
Journaling also helps give clarity to your professional identity and priorities.
If you have tough skin, ask your colleagues, spouse, and friends for specific and proactive feedback. It helps you focus the feedback sessions as more of a conversation to avoid damaging the relationships you have.
Would you like an interview coach to help? An interview coach can help you through difficult job interviews, helping with:
- Weird (and maybe crazy!) questions
- Behavioral questions
- How to control unfavorable speaking habits during interviews
- Explaining why you were fired
- Salary and benefit negotiations
- And, what to do when you have issues with your references
Job seekers who are unaware of their weaknesses can lack emotional intelligence as well as being unwilling to accept feedback and recognize any shortcomings they may have.
Stating you do not have a weakness or attempting to spin a weakness into a strength can come off as disingenuous when done improperly.
Successfully answering this question often depends on how much reflection the job seeker has done upon areas of his/her life that offer room for professional growth.
Need the benefit of interview coaching? Schedule a free 15-minute consultation, and let’s discuss your specific interviewing needs.
Most employers are seeking employees who have a genuine desire for recognizing their weaknesses and responding to those with a continuous diet of professional development and personal growth.
Examples of How Job Seekers Have Answered the Weakness Question
A good strategy for answering the weakness question is to state a true weakness coupled with how you are striving at improving (or have already improved) it.
So, what might an effective response look like?
Here are examples for various career fields:
“I tend to be somewhat shy in large groups of people and in the past have avoided big networking events. I have been making a concerted effort to attend at least two professional conferences a year and to do what I can to approach and talk to more people at these events. I don’t yet feel confident in these settings, but I do not dread them as much as I once did and have made some important connections that have strengthened my network.”
“After 3 years in customer service, I found my patience level to be in short supply. After a chance meeting with a supervisor, I came to realize that I like change and being challenged. I immediately transitioned into a management role and have focused on disruptive, transformational business strategies ever since. I change jobs every 1-2 years. Some people see my changing jobs as a weakness, however, my performance and successes with each of my recent employers prove otherwise. I get in, do an excellent job, and then move on. I don’t waste time.”
“When I joined SOM Electronics in 2012, sales did not come easily to me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was probably the worst salesperson they ever hired in company history. My biggest weakness to this day is that I can’t stand defeat. I become obsessed with success, which served me well with SOM and at my other two employers.”
Every job seeker and employed professional has areas for improvement. You can embrace your weakness, as the customer service gal did above, or counteract your weakness to make that into a strength. Either way, the weakness question has no hold over you.
If you’re someone like Jeb Bush, you can say your weakness is that you’re an optimist. Or, Donald Trump who says that he holds grudges.
It’s the individual who assesses himself honestly to find ways to improve that will move forward in his career and be competitive in the job market.