Interview Questions: What is your weakness?Thursday, 20 April 2017
Weaknesses are often difficult for people to discuss. What should you say, and how much detail is required when giving your answer?
If you've been searching online for answers to common interview questions you've probably come across articles and other blog posts that suggest you disguise a strength as a weakness, use an irrelevant weakness, or some other technique that basically doesn't tell the interviewer what they want to know. Things like, I work too hard, I'm a perfectionist, or I don't have any weaknesses. These are all bad examples to use.
Interviewers have seen all the tricks before and will see right through them. This question is a chance for you to be honest with yourself and the interviewer about your weaknesses, and show that you can recognise areas where you need improvement. For the interviewer it also shows that you want to improve and how you face and overcome obstacles. We all have weaknesses in some areas, so saying you don't is just a lie.
The hard part about answering questions regarding your weaknesses is you need to walk a fine line. If your weakness is something critical to the job, such as communication skills for a customer service position or maths skills for an accounting position, this can hurt your suitability for the job. Read through the job description and make sure you aren't mentioning something the employer is looking for.
The best advice for answering this question is to be truthful, but not so truthful that you raise red flags.
I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, which results in me being late occasionally. is a truthful answer, but you're being too honest and it will make you look like a bad choice.
In addition to avoiding red flags avoid personal weaknesses as they won't be relevant here. A crippling fear of snakes isn't going to mean much in a job interview, unless you're applying for a job at a zoo. The best weaknesses to talk about are those that are work related and that you're actively managing or improving, something that's fixable.
To help recognise your weaknesses, you need to do some self-assessment. Think about what you have difficulty with, which of your skills need improvement, or what previous managers or co-workers have told you about your work. Once you've got a list, go through it and pick out the things that you're currently managing or would be able to manage. Finally list what you have done, or doing, or could do to manage each weakness listed.
This gives you the three pieces of information you should include in your answer.
- What is your weakness or what is it you have difficulty with?
- What have you done to manage your weakness so it has less of an impact on you?
- What impact has managing your weakness had on yourself or previous work?
I get nervous when it comes to speaking in front of big groups. I have no problem in small groups. But in larger groups I can be reserved and not always offer my opinion. To overcome this I have be attending Toastmasters events to help practise speaking in front of groups. Being put on the spot and asked to talk at these meetings hasn't been easy, but it has helped me realise the importance of speaking in front of groups, and made me more confident as a result. This new confidence has made me a more effective communicator, and my previous manager noticed an improvement in my work as a result.
I've had little need to use a computer throughout my working life until recently, which has left me with a weakness in computer skills. To fix this, I've been taking a short computer course after work. I've been learning basic computer skills and familiarising myself with the common software that businesses use, such as Microsoft Office. As a result of this I'm a lot more confident and I'm able to complete tasks quicker because I'm not worried about making mistakes. If I do make mistakes, I'm able to correct them.
During an interview you may be asked this question in a straightforward way, such as What is your biggest weakness or tell me about your weaknesses. If you've done some preparation you'll be equipped to answer this question. However, when they ask you about your weaknesses in a different way it can trip you up and you may provide the wrong information or unintentionally reveal information you wouldn't have otherwise.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? People want to change things they see as a weakness. So answering this question tells the interviewer what you think is your weakness. Don't be tempted to answer this question with a personal change, for example they're not asking about your appearance.
Do you have any development goals? By asking the question this way they want to know what weaknesses you're already working on, or weaknesses you'd like to work towards improving.
If I were to ask your previous manager, what areas would they say you need improvement? This one is straight forward, but don't bring up anything major or overly negative.
Sometimes the interviewer may ask you about specific skills, such as tell me about your computer skills. Depending on your abilities your answer is going to be a strength or weakness. If the interviewer asks about a specific set of skills it's obviously important to them. Talk about how you're currently managing your weakness in this area, or about how you could manage it in order to improve.
No matter how they change this question around, they're still after the same thing. Can you recognise areas where you need improvement, and are you willing to learn and better yourself in order to become an excellent employee?
Be mindful of the way you talk about your weaknesses and show they can be managed so there impact isn't too great.