What is your biggest weakness? is a common job interview question. It can be a tricky question to answer, but with the proper preparation, you will give a winning response.
Before you learn how to answer the question, let’s look at the reasons the question is asked during a job interview, so you have a better understanding of what the interviewer wants to know.
The question about your weakness is to find out a few of things about you. Are you self aware and know what your strengths and weaknesses are? This is important because people who are know themselves, are usually people who can learn and grow both personally and in the job.
The question is also asked to discover if you are honest about yourself to others. A good team member can recognize his weaknesses and admit them to others. No one wants to work with a person who thinks he walks on water and is never willing to admit he is wrong.
The answer to the question of your biggest weakness, simply reveals what areas you are not strong in. A smart boss will hire people who have different skills, so that the team is well rounded. Imagine a team where every employee is strong in finding sales leads, but no one can then sell to those leads. Such a team would not be successful and the company would fail!
How do you answer the question of your weakness in a job interview? First, you must know what your strengths are. Start with the positive and really know what you do well. Now think of what does not come easy to you, what you may struggle to accomplish. Those are areas you are weak in.
If you are still unsure of your strengths and weaknesses, think about what your former bosses or teachers have said about you. Think of what compliments and what criticisms you have heard in the past. Make a list of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Your strengths may be that you are a good listener, you are someone who motivates others, or you complete projects on time. Weaknesses may be that you over-analyze everything, you procrastinate, or you are stubborn.
Now that you have both lists, look to see what on your list of weaknesses could be perceived as a strength, depending on the situation. Polar opposites or the yin and yang exists in everything in life. What I perceive as good, someone else perceives as bad. That means that you can take your weakness and demonstrate it as a strength in the right situation.
Let me show you what I mean. You may have heard all your life that you over analyze things and ask too many questions. When you go on a job interview, and are asked, “What are your weaknesses?,” you could answer, “I analyze things too much.” That answer will not help you land the job. A positive, winning answer is, “I have been told that I sometimes over-analyze things and can ask a lot of questions. I know that can bother some people. I have the ability to see holes in plans, that other people might not see. That’s when I ask a lot of questions.” Do you see how what some people would find annoying, is actually a real asset to a company? The key is giving a full explanation for what you have been told is a weakness.
Here is another way to handle the question of your weakness. Know what the job duties are and what they are not, by getting a thorough job description before you interview. You can get this information from the job posting. If you a working with a recruiter, he will have the job description. You can answer that your weakness is something that you know is not a job requirement. For example, Joe did telemarketing one summer during college, now he is applying for a computer analyst job, and knows that he will never have to handle a sales call. When asked about his weaknesses, he can say,”I am not a good salesman. I did telemarketing while I was in college and I did not enjoy it.”
The interviewer may accept that answer and move on to the next question, or she may want to know a weakness in Joe’s current career as a computer analyst. If she wants another example, then Joe can provide a weakness that is a strength in the position he is interviewing for. He can say, “I know I can be really stubborn. I am usually stubborn when I want to make sure the system is right and that we have not missed any glitches. Others want to go live, when I am holding my ground to check when I am not yet convinced that the program is fool proof.” Joe’s stubborn side can keep that company from having big problems by going live too soon. That is a positive quality that will help Joe get the job.
One other way to answer the weakness question is to think of something you were not skilled at, but took the time to learn. Maybe you were not very good with making Excel spreadsheets, so you took a course, or had someone teach you how to do the basics. You could answer, “I am not an expert in Excel, so I decided to get help and learn. I can now do a spreadsheet with basic functions. I plan to continue to my working knowledge and have signed up for an online course on Excel.” This shows the interviewer that you recognized your weaknesses and you took the initiative to learn and improve your skills. It is important to be honest with your answers. You don’t want to say you took a course or have signed up when you haven’t. Lies have a way of catching up with you and biting you later on.
In summary, when asked the question about your weaknesses, give an honest answer.
You can name something that has nothing to do with the job responsibilities and requirements. You can give an answer that others perceive as your weakness, but is actually a strength in the job you are interviewing for. You can talk about something you were not strong in, but then took the time and initiate to learn and improve. This is only one question you will be asked during the job interview. Remember to be positive with all your answers and be sure to tell the interviewer about your strengths and abilities.
Easter Becker-Smith is a trusted leadership and development life coach. She has interviewed thousands of people throughout her business career. Her blog at http://coacheaster.com is very helpful and insightful for keeping a positive mindset while job searching. She also offers on tips on job interviewing skills, as well as workshops and one on one job interviewing coaching.