"What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?" – the dreaded question that everyone hopes to avoid in a job interview!
If you say the wrong thing, you can hinder your chances of securing the job but failing to answer it altogether will ensure that your application ends up in the "Do not hire" pile.
So, how do you answer this hard-hitting question?
Well, we’ve prepared this handy guide to teach you all there is to know about answering this tricky question while making sure you get one step closer to bagging the job of your dreams.
Watch our short video within an interview setting:
Why hiring managers ask this question
The purpose of this question isn’t to embarrass you or trick you into telling the interview panel what you’re not good at, but rather to gain insight into your character and how you solve problems.
The question is also posed to see if you are a good fit for the organisation and the job you’ve applied for. For example, if you are applying for a customer service role and you tell the hiring manager that you’re shy, you most likely won’t be a good match for the job as you’ll be expected to deal with customers all day.
Hiring managers also take note of how you answer this question; they pay attention to whether you crumble under pressure or if you answer confidently and with conviction.
How to craft a response
Use these tips to help you craft the perfect answer to a question about your biggest weakness.
1. Be honest
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, but rather that you should mention something that you can develop. In other words, list an improving weakness, something that you can work on over time.
2. Select a weakness that wouldn’t directly affect your job
That said, the weakness you choose to mention shouldn’t directly affect the job that you’re applying for. If the job requires you to be good with numbers, for example, then you shouldn’t identify math as your weakness. Likewise, if you’re in sales, don’t confess to being quiet or shy.
3. Make sure the weakness is relatively minor
Although the weakness shouldn’t affect the job, it should be related to the position in general and be minor. It should be something that can be fixed without any interference. For example, public speaking is a weakness that many professionals struggle with, but it is something that can be improved with practice.
4. Use the STAR technique
When describing your weakness during your interview, you should consider using the STAR method to do so:
- Situation: Explain the context of the example (public speaking at work)
- Task: Specify what your goal is (to present with ease in front of a large group of people)
- Action: Describe the actions you took to improve your weakness (training classes, etc)
- Result: Mention the outcome (more relaxed when giving presentations now).
5. Mention what you’ve done to resolve the issue
When providing your answer, it’s important to list the measures you have taken to resolve your struggle. And if you haven’t already made any progress, you should start doing it now! There are many ways to improve and overcome weaknesses; these include joining workshops, doing volunteer work, taking on extra duties, getting a mentor and finding tools to help.
Examples of weaknesses
When it comes to admitting our weaknesses in an interview, it’s hard to know what to say. You want to be honest, but also not say something that could harm your chances of landing the job. To help you with this dilemma, we’ve compiled a list of some great examples of weaknesses to help you answer this question more confidently in your interview:
- Inexperience with company specific software
- Hesitancy when it comes to delegating tasks
- Impatience with bureaucracies
- Leaving projects unfinished
- Focused too much on details
- Difficulty with delegating tasks
- Very introverted (or extroverted)
- Fear of public speaking
- Impatience with delayed projects and tasks
- Lack of experience
- Taking on risks
- Difficulty with sharing responsibility
- Struggle to ask for help
- Prone to stress
- Maintaining work-life balance
Whichever weakness you choose, be sure to explain how you are working on improving in that area and how you have already taken steps to address it. You want your potential employer to understand that you have flaws, but you also want to show them you are willing to grow and develop.
Mistakes to avoid
When forming your answer, be sure to avoid these common pitfalls.
1. Turning a negative into a positive
Many candidates fall into the trap of turning a negative into a positive by saying that they are ‘too much of a perfectionist’ or ‘too dedicated to their work’. While they may think that they’ve earned major brownie points, the complete opposite is achieved. Pretending that perfectionism is a personal weakness is the oldest trick in the book, and you should avoid cliché answers like this at all costs!
2. Refusing to answer the question
Saying that you can’t think of a single weakness is probably worse than directly telling the hiring manager that you are Mr or Mrs Perfect. This answer insinuates that you have something to hide and it shows that you didn’t prepare well enough for the interview.
3. Highlighting a weakness that raises a red flag
Another issue you can face when answering this question is when you reveal a weakness that can hinder your job performance. For example, by saying: ‘I really struggle to get up for work in the morning and I’m often 5–10 minutes late’, you’re only highlighting your poor time management skills. As a result, this will make hiring managers question your ability to perform well on the job.
Naturally, you may feel nervous during your interview. To cope, it’s essential that you prepare answers to common interview questions in advance. It will help you be more confident and prepared, as well as ensure that you present yourself in the best possible light. When it comes to answering this particular question, always remember the following:
- Be honest no matter what. Interviews are your time to shine and show your employer why they should hire you over other candidates; do that without lying.
- Stick to weaknesses that aren’t specifically related to the role. If your job requires you to work within a team, mentioning your lack of teamwork skills would be a mistake!
- Don’t list too many weaknesses. If your employer asks for one, great! But if they ask for a few weaknesses, stick to three or less!
- Prove you can change. Take the issue you struggle with and show your potential employer how you overcome it regularly!
- Relax! Everyone interviewing will feel like they are answering the hardest interview questions as well, so take a deep breath and answer confidently.
Have you had difficulties answering this question before? Join the conversation below and let us know about your personal experiences!
This article was originally published on December 28, 2018 and contains contributions by staff writer Shalie Reich.