INTERVIEWS / MAY. 31, 2016
version 6, draft 6

How to Answer Questions About Your Greatest Weakness

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"What is your greatest weakness" is one of the most common, but also least understood questions asked in interviews. How would you answer the question?

Creating a great resume and cover letter is only the first part of the job seeking process. If actually you manage to get an interview, things start to get even harder. Some questions are very common in job interviews. One such question is known as the “greatest weakness” question. It is when an employer asks you what your biggest weakness is as an employee, and you are expected to provide a real answer.

But no one actually provides a real answer. If you provided a real answer, like “I often fall asleep at work” or “I don’t actually know how to do the job,” you are not going to get hired. Your goal is to provide an answer that sounds like a weakness but won’t prevent you from getting hired.

The Typical Answer

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When most job seekers are faced with this question, they usually pick one of two answers:

  • “I am a perfectionist.”
  • “I work too hard.”

The first one is so common it has become a “Cliché”. Interviewers that hear this answer will probably roll their eyes or ignore it. The second option, “I work too hard,” is just a flat out lie. It’s not a weakness and hiring managers know that.

You don’t want to give them a reason not to hire you. But you also need to come up with an answer that sounds real.

The Best Greatest Weakness Answers

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If you want to genuinely impress employers, you should try to come up with a real weakness. The ideal answer will have the following qualities:

  • The hiring manager can empathize with the weakness.
  • The weakness will not prevent you from getting hired.
  • You have a “follow up” that describes what you are doing to eliminate the weakness in the future.

That last point is important. No matter what answer you choose, you should show the interviewer that you are trying to be different. Tell them you are making an effort to overcome your weaknesses.

Here is an example:

“My biggest weakness is sharing my ideas. At my last job, I knew I had some good ideas for the project, but I stayed quiet and waited for others to share their thoughts instead of sharing my own. I felt worried that people would not like my ideas. Since then, I have been making an effort to speak up, and let my teammates know when I think there is a strategy that could work better.”

That is an actual weakness. It is also one that many people can understand and empathize with. It won’t work for every job (for example, do not use that answer if you are applying to be a consultant), but it is easy to understand, and common.

Lots of people have had good ideas that they struggled to share. But that last sentence makes it all better because you have shown the interviewer that you know that’s a problem for you and you’re making an effort to improve upon it.

The best way to get a job is to impress the interviewer with your answers, not simply “get by.” Boring answers, such as “perfectionist,” will not make you memorable. Specific, interesting answers are what will give you the greatest opportunity to make an impact.

Have you been asked this question before? How did you answer it? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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