Interview Questions And Answers : What Is Your Greatest Weakness
Interview Questions And Answers : What Is Your Greatest Weakness
1. Trying to turn a negative into a positive.
You’ll find many books and articles that advise you to “turn a negative into a positive” by sharing a supposed weakness that is actually a desirable quality in an employee. A few examples:
• I am too much of a perfectionist.
• I work too hard sometimes.
• I care too much about my work.
Clever idea. At this point, though, it’s an old trick and the interviewer sees right through it. She has seen many candidates try the same song and dance. In fact, this approach will likely make her think you are hiding something.
2. Discuss Non-Essential Skills
One approach to answering this question is to analyze the key skills and strengths required for the position you are interviewing for and then come up with an honest shortcoming which is not essential for success in that job.
For example, if you are applying for a nursing job, you might share that you are not particularly adept at conducting group presentations. In this case it will be critical to underscore your strength in one-on-one communication with patients, while providing an example of your difficulty with presentations to large groups.
3. Revealing a weakness that raises red flags.
Another mistake is to be too candid and confess to a weakness that would hinder your ability to excel in the role. I once had a coaching client answer, “I have trouble getting up in the morning and getting to work on time.” His real weakness was that he was way too honest.
Read on for our advice on how to avoid these mistakes and talk about your weaknesses in a way that is both honest and smart.
Interview Questions About Weaknesses
Here are some of the different weakness questions that are regularly asked in job interviews:
• What is your greatest weakness?
This is probably the most common phrasing.
• What are some of your weaknesses?
Here you are being asked for more than one. The interviewer knows you have that one B.S. weakness prepared and wants to push you for more (see also: follow-up questions below)
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Some interviewers will ask you to sum up both strengths and weaknesses in one answer.
• If I called your current/previous manager, what would he/she say that you need to work on?
This phrasing is tricky. By planting the idea of calling your current/last manager, the interviewer is trying to subconsciously encourage more honesty (Some candidates immediately start thinking, “What if he actually calls her?”)
• Tell me about a development goal that you have set.
This question probes for weakness, but also emphasizes your ability to proactively set development goals.
• If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Here’s another phrasing — again asking for your GREATEST weakness, or at least the one that you feel is most limiting.
• What do you most want to improve in the next year?
This phrasing takes a more positive approach, but it is still a question about weaknesses.
Follow-up Questions About Weaknesses
You should also be prepared for follow-up or probing questions, especially if your answer to the original weakness question was vague or unconvincing.
• But how has that weakness negatively affected you?
You’ll often hear this follow-up question if you’ve failed to describe a REAL weakness (see “turning a negative into a positive” strategy above”)
• OK, how about a real weakness?
This is a more pointed follow-up when the interviewer is skeptical about your answer.
• Can you share another weakness or area for development?
A tough interviewer may ask for more than one weakness, especially if the first one provided sounds false or over-rehearsed. Some interviewers just know that candidates often prepare only one weakness and want to see what they come up with on the spot.
Inside Big Interview, our complete training system for job interviews, we give you video lessons, sample answers, and an interactive practice tool for all of these different versions of “What is your greatest weakness?” Watch this brief video to learn a little more about Big Interview, and click here to grab your own 7 Day Free Trial of the program.
Why Interviewers Ask About Your Greatest Weaknesses
So why do interviewers ask about weaknesses when they know that most candidates don’t answer honestly?
They’re trying to get past your nice, presentable interview facade and get a sense of what you’re really like to work with — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Even if you don’t answer honestly, your answer tells them something about you. If you dodge the question or try to fake your way through, the interviewer will wonder if:
1) You’ve got scary secret weaknesses that you won’t discuss.
2) You think you’re perfect because you have no self-awareness.
3) You think you’re perfect because your standards are very low.
4) You’re a con artist. (this may be okay if you’re in politics or public relations)
I have seen strong interviewers get tripped up with the weakness question. It can be very difficult to talk about your flaws in a stressful situation like a job interview. Negative topics require added diplomacy (See also: Answering behavioral questions about failure).
Meanwhile, you’re nervous and thinking about 1,000 other things (Is my hair sticking up? Is my breath okay? Why did he just frown like that? What am I going to say if he asks why I left my last job? How am I going to remember that teamwork example? Can he tell that I’m sweating?)
However, there is a way to answer that is honest and authentic and still increases your odds of getting a job offer.
I’ll explain it briefly here, and then dive into a free trial of Big Interview- where I’ll give you complete video lessons on crafting the perfect answer. Once you’ve crafted a good answer, it’s important to practice delivering that answer (and that’s where the video Practice tool inside Big Interview comes in).
It’s the only way to get completely prepared for an interview- even if you only have an hour to spare.
How to Answer “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”
(and other interview questions about your flaws and weaknesses)
A good weakness answer has two important parts:
Part 1) Your weakness
Briefly describe a real weakness that wouldn’t be a major handicap on the job (Read on for how to choose a “good” weakness)
Part 2) How you are already working on it
Part 2 is the critical component. Discuss your proactive efforts to improve. This shows that you are self-aware, have a drive to be your best, and that the weakness will not slow you down.
Mention Skills You Have Improved (What Is Your Greatest Weakness)
Another option is to discuss skills that you have improved upon during your previous job, so you are showing the interviewer that you can make improvements when necessary.
If you use this strategy be sure not to mention anything that you improved upon that is related to the job for which you are interviewing.
You don’t want your qualifications for the job to be questioned.
Part 1: How to Choose a “Good” Weakness (What Is Your Greatest Weakness)
• Be authentic.
Don’t select a weakness just because it sounds good. You will make a better impression with sincerity. That doesn’t mean you have to share a weakness that makes you look bad. If you’re like most of us, you have several weaknesses and at least one of them will be interview-friendly as defined by the additional guidelines below.
• Pick a weakness that is acceptable for the job at hand.
Be aware of the job requirements and don’t cite a weakness related to any of the required skills or desired qualities. If you’re an accountant, don’t talk about hating math or lack of attention to detail. If you’re in sales, don’t confess to being too reserved or lacking persistence.
• Select a weakness that is relatively minor and “fixable.”
By fixable, I mean it’s something you can improve through work and motivation.
What Is Your Greatest Weakness For example:
Fixable: “I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups.”
(You can get better through practice and learning new skills — and this is a common development area.)
Harder to fix: “I am very shy and often have trouble speaking up in meetings.”
(While there’s nothing wrong with being shy, an interviewer could assume that the candidate would have trouble collaborating in a team environment. This is a preference or personality quality that would be more difficult to change.)
• Describe your weakness in a concise, neutral way.
Don’t feel like you have to go into great detail. Be brief and, most importantly, avoid sounding defensive or overly negative.
Read on to the last section for examples of good weaknesses to describe in job interviews.
Part 2: How to Demonstrate That You Are Working on Your Weakness
In the second part of your answer, you need to describe how you have already taken steps to improve in your area of weakness. Here’s why:
1) A great candidate is always looking for ways to learn and grow
2) A fabulous candidate then takes the initiative to improve
Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Another option is to turn a negative into a positive. For example, a sense of urgency to get projects completed or wanting to triple-check every item in a spreadsheet can be turned into a strength i.e. you are a candidate who will make sure that the project is done on time and your work will be close to perfect.
Here’s more information on how to answer questions about weaknesses.
Use your answer to demonstrate your motivation to be the best at what you do. This is how to truly emphasize the positive when talking about your weakness.
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