Can you feel strong while talking about your weaknesses? Yes!
There are few questions quite as overused by interviewers than the ever-popular “What's your greatest weakness?”. It's one of those interview questions that you can almost 100 percent expect to be asked, and likewise, you can almost 100 percent expect to dread it.
Organizations ask this question for a few reasons. One is that they want to get a full picture of who you are as a professional and what holes you have in your skill set. By asking about your weaknesses, they can begin to see how you may or may not be successful in the role and what type of support you might need if you were to be the hired candidate.
Interviewers also often ask about your weaknesses in the same fashion that they ask about your strengths: open-ended and curious. They want to know what you're good at and what you're not so good at so that they can put you in a position to be successful.
Finally, interviewers often ask this question because they are trying to discern whether or not you are self-aware. Hiring candidates who are self-aware is key for company cultures where coaching, learning, and personal development are expected of employees. If you're not conscious of your character then you probably won't be receptive to feedback, which is a big red flag for employers.
Dreading this question is perfectly normal because it can be uncomfortable to think about our weaknesses. Thinking about our faults and shortcomings and then sharing them with a stranger (in an interview setting to boot!) puts one in a vulnerable position, and frankly, vulnerable is the last thing you want to feel in an interview.
To eliminate the dread and provide a rockstar answer when you're asked about your weaknesses during a job interview, here are a few things you can do:
By thinking ahead of what you will and will not share with an interviewer you will reduce your chances of saying the wrong thing or worse, oversharing. Oversharing can be an interview killer and comes in many shapes and forms. It can be sharing a weakness that has no relevance to the job at hand, like a long story about your spouse's complaints about you, or telling the interviewer that you have issues with personal boundaries at work — yikes.
Giving some thought to your interview response ahead of time puts you in control of the narrative of not only what you share, but also what it says about you. For instance, you can tell the interviewer that your weakness is that you're impatient, but follow up with stating what you're doing about it and the success you have had thus far in improving yourself. The key is to strategically choose what you share to show humility and a growth mindset: “Yes, I can get overwhelmed, but what I do to prevent this is X and what I have learned so far is Y.”
This piece of advice is critical. Recall why interviewers ask this question — they want to know what you need to work on — so be authentic and honest in your approach.
Contrary to popular belief, it will do you a great disservice to choose a weakness that you quickly spin as a strength, like saying that your greatest weakness is that you're a perfectionist. Another mistake is choosing a weakness that is so trivial it is hardly worth mentioning. Interviewers will see through both of these tactics.
Instead, choose a weakness that you actually have and care about improving in yourself. By being honest you will show the interviewer that you value learning, work towards self-improvement, and are receptive to feedback.
If you don't know what you're working on or aren't working on anything at the moment, start your preparation for the question by honestly reflecting on yourself. You can think about the areas of your life that cause some difficulties or look for patterns in feedback you've received in the past. This should give you some clues about what you could be working on. You can also ask your closest friends or colleagues for their input, but brace yourself — their feedback might not be easy to hear.
Beware: Remember to strategize before you pour your innermost thoughts on how you'd like to improve yourself to an interviewer. Remember to carefully choose what you share — don't overshare and don't share weaknesses that are in a direct conflict with the job requirements. For instance, if you're interviewing for an editing position, do not say that you have a struggle with details.
Whatever you do, don't do this
We've already outlined some of the missteps you can take when answering the greatest weakness interview question, but the one thing that will kill your interview is this: saying you have no weaknesses. Whether it's your honest opinion of yourself or you're making a joke, this is the ultimate interview buzzkill.
Again, employers want to hire people who are interested in learning and growing — it is good for their business so it is often a priority when looking for new employees. If you give the impression that you are arrogant or uncoachable, it is likely that they will lose interest in you on the spot.
When handling this tough interview question, being yourself is always the best way to go. If you are honest and as true to yourself as possible then you can have a no-regrets outlook if they choose not to hire you. Plus, showing an interviewer exactly who you are throughout the process is important because they want to get to know you, not your interview persona. Think of it this way: You want them to hire the real you, so that is what you have to show them.
When it comes down to it, dreading an interview question won't get you anywhere. Instead of worrying, prepare yourself to tackle this question with confidence by thinking ahead and staying honest. If you give honest thought to how you would like to improve yourself and strategize what you share, you can show the interviewer exactly who you are while communicating your commitment to self-growth — and that will make you a desirable candidate.
Let a TopInterview expert help you prepare a solid answer to this difficult interview question. Learn more.
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