Posted by Robert Half on 07 November 2014
The dreaded “what are your weaknesses?” interview question sends most job candidates to their knees.
No matter how well the interview may be going up to that point, a bad response could flip the interview around like a hook to the jaw.
Here’s what you need to know to turn your response to the interview questions about weaknesses into a conversation about your greatest strengths.
Why do job interviewers ask it?
Many hiring managers ask this question as it shows a lot about a candidate. It seems innocent enough, but many interviewees sidestep the question by saying they’re ‘perfectionists’ or that they ‘work too hard’. Bad idea. This type of response has become so clichéd that many interviewers plan follow-up questions to encourage applicants to answer honestly.
A generic response misses the mark because it often reveals that the candidate lacks sincerity and self-awareness. It may seem that they don’t know any personal weaknesses, or choose not to reveal any, possibly out of fear that admitting any would jeopardise chances of getting the job. However, you should approach the question this way: no one is perfect. If you have strengths, then you must also have weaknesses. Just be honest about both.
How do you respond to the interview question?
A sound approach to answering the question is to state an actual weakness and then follow it up with steps you have taken or are taking to overcome the issue. Not only will you demonstrate to the interviewer that you proactively take steps toward self-improvement, but you’ll also show that you’re good at problem-solving — a skill vital in any position and field.
If you haven’t really thought about your weaknesses, brainstorm a few ideas or ask a friend or trustworthy colleague. Answer the question honestly during your interview, but mention a weakness that isn’t essential to the job for which you’re interviewing. If you’re in finance, don’t admit that you don’t like numbers or you sometimes make mistakes with multiplication. Revealing that you have a weakness in an essential job skill is like a boxer stating that they have a glass jaw. It's a bad strategy.
Remember: A worthy challenger is always looking for ways to learn and grow. A top contender then takes the initiative to improve by strengthening and compensating.
Don’t be blindsided by a question asking about your weaknesses. Be ready with an honest response and then win the hiring manager over by crafting a solid game plan for turning that weakness into a strength. And, take home the prize.
This article originally appeared as How to Respond to the Question: What Are Your Weaknesses? on The Robert Half blog.