By Louise Green

This is an age-old question that is a favourite of interviewers. When they ask “what is your biggest weakness?” the interviewer is looking for your level of self-awareness and also your ability to cope with a potentially anxiety-inducing question in a relaxed and organised way. Can you handle a tough question like this one? You will need to be prepared.

 When this question is asked keep in mind that the interviewer wants to see:

  • if you can be objective about yourself;
  • if you can appreciate the demands of the position;
  • what steps you have taken, are taking and envisage taking to offset this i.e. did you listen to the feedback?

When asked what your biggest weakness is DO NOT:

  • Say “perfectionism” or “I work too hard sometimes”. These are tired clichés.
  • Take up the interview with lots of ums and ahs as you desperately search for an answer… you need to be prepared for this question!
  • Deny your weaknesses by saying “I can’t think of any”. It makes you appear arrogant or (even worse) naïve.
  • Be too candid and confess to a weakness that would hinder your ability to excel in the role. For example, if the job requires that you manage people, don’t say that you’re not a people person.
  • Be flippant with an answer like “chocolate cake”. This shows you don’t respect the question enough to give it serious thought (which could lead them to think you also don’t respect or take the position seriously).

 Ask colleagues and previous managers for feedback on your performance and reflect on your performance appraisals.  This will give you good material to work with, as well as increase your own self-awareness. Pick a weakness that is acceptable for the job at hand and that is relatively minor and “fixable”.  Describe your weakness in a concise, neutral way and don’t feel like you have to go into great detail. Be brief and most importantly, avoid sounding defensive or overly negative. Don’t beat yourself up! Describe what steps you have already taken to manage your weakness, as a strong candidate should demonstrate they are always looking for ways to learn and grow. This way you’ll be a strong position to answer the “what are your strengths?” question.

Remember a well considered and prepared answer to this tough question can be a very powerful in the interview.

Louise's original post on LinkedIn can be found here.
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