7 answers to “your weakness” interview question

We have been inundated over the last few weeks with hits on this post originally sent out in May 2009. Here it again.

Obviously, no one likes to admit that they have any weaknesses, especially in front of a potential employer. So what do you do? Here are seven different tactics for dealing with the question.

Strength as weakness:

Give a weakness that can prove to be an asset. Conventional advice tells you to give a weakness that really could be taken as strength, such as: “I’m a workaholic. I spend a lot of time at work.” As you can probably guess, while it sounds like a smart answer, employers usually see right through this because it’s self-serving. A better answer is to mention something that may be perceived as a weakness but, in the proper context, constitutes a genuine strength

Correcting a weakness:

This tactic acknowledges you have a weakness but you recognize it and are working towards overcoming it. Always provide examples of the steps you’re doing to fix the problem, How far you’ve come, and how these changes will help the employer.

Learned my lesson:

Similar to the correcting a weakness tactic, this approach acknowledges you made a mistake but it’s within the context of you then learning a useful lesson from it. You’ll need to demonstrate what you learned from the mistake. The expectation is that the employer will deem you can learn from your mistakes and that you’re unlikely to make this mistake again. Like, the correcting a weakness tactic, see if you can imply how these changes will help the employer.

Plan to learn/overcome weakness:

Similar to the correcting a weakness, this approach admits you have a weakness, but will start working on it. This is a useful way to handle the situation where you know you have most but not all the skills required for the position. Since you acknowledge the deficiency, and what you plan to do about it, you present yourself as someone who knows themselves, what’s needed in the position and are prepared to overcome weaknesses when required to do so.

Unrelated weakness:

Not every weakness will affect your job performance. This tactic suggests you pick a weakness that, while a genuine weakness doesn’t interfere with your ability to do the job. This requires you to know what the job needs and being able to proffer a “safe” weakness.

None that apply:

This tactic is like trying to answer the question by not answering it, or deflecting it. The tactic here is to answer the question by admitting you have weaknesses, but can’t think of any that would be relevant to the job. Be wary of using this approach as it will come across as evasive and may prompt more digging by the interviewer, or worse they may perceive you to have too many weaknesses and don’t want to admit to any of them (also a bad thing).

Unspoken Question:

Providing you feel the interview is going in the right direction you may be able to try this tactic. Here you respond by asking the interviewer if there is a specific reason they asked the question i.e. they believe you may be missing something. The aim here is to bring out into the open a concern they have (if they have one) and allows you to speak to it, rather than approach it like a question that needs an answer.

Do you have any other tactics for dealing with this supposedly innocuous, but potentially damaging question?  Let us know and we’ll  share it.

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Simon at VirtualJobCoach.com

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