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Most people dread this question in an interview. Do you? Here’s how to answer it.
This is one of those questions that interviewers throw in to really test you. It conflicts with desire to say only positive things about yourself – in a situation where anything negative could be disastrous. But recruiters love this question, so ask it they will.
You’ll need to think about it in advance, so you’ll be able to answer the question without avoiding it and even turn it to your advantage.
Why ask this question?
This question aims to test your analytical abilities, and self-aware you are. We are all human and we are all imperfect. We can’t be good at everything. In fact every one of us sucks at something. So it isn’t a question that can be answered with ‘I don’t have weaknesses’. We simply can’t avoid the question if asked. Another reason is that interviewers know that you will probably lie about your answer (or not be 100% honest). But that’s OK. The way you answer this question is as important as the content of the answer itself. A ‘good’ answer will demonstrate EQ (Emotional Intelligence) as well as IQ.
So how should you answer it?
How to Answer this Question
- Be confident. A confident answer to this tricky question, confidently delivered, will create the right impression. You may need to rehearse it so your answer flows. If you deliver it hesitantly, it will show that you’re nervous about your response.
- Be brief. Unless you’re specifically asked to, don’t give too much detail when answering this question. You might slip on a banana skin by saying something unnecessary, voluntarily.
- Be authentic. Make it about a real weakness – not one you have fabricated. If you’re probed more about it, further answers won’t stand up to the test of scrutiny. You’ll be found out by a skilled interviewer.
- Watch your body language. Look into the eyes of the interviewers as you answer. Avoiding eye-contact could send the wrong signals. As I said earlier, you’ll very probably be economical with the truth, so your body language might give you away. Don’t cover your mouth, cross your arms or rub your eyes, as trained interviewers will see these behaviors as suspicious.
- Make it about a minor flaw. You don’t need to give away your darkest thoughts, even though the question is about your ‘greatest’ weakness. Answer the question about a flaw that can be worked on and overcome.
- Always say how you’re overcoming your weakness. Don’t just leave your answer hanging out to dry. This is a perfect opportunity to show your initiative. So if your weakness is to avoid conflict, then say how you’ve used assertiveness training to overcome this and give an example of where the training has worked for you.
- Keep your answer work-related. Answering that you can’t judge distances whilst driving is no use (unless you’re going for a driving-related job that is!)
- Don’t be cheesy. I’ve read some advice to this challenge that says you should answer this question like ‘My greatest weakness is that I am too passionate about my work and find little time for other things’ – in my experience recruiters see right through this kind of answer and view it as ducking the question. Avoid saying that something is a weakness that is really an all out benefit to an employer.
- Don’t be defensive. Like I said, we’re all human. We don’t need to apologize for our weaknesses, or defend them. So statements like ‘I get frustrated easily, but often because of other people’ won’t hit the mark.
- Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If the role you’re applying for requires lots of teamwork, don’t answer ‘I struggle with teamwork’. Your application will be dismissed outright. Another one: if you’re not a ‘morning person’ and you’re applying for a role that requires an early start, don’t say that you struggle to get up in the morning and are often late getting to work. So think of another weakness to talk about. However, perhaps you should also consider if this job will suit you anyway?
- Have a backup answer. Sometimes, a recruiter might feel that your first answer was too trivial, or suspect that it isn’t your real ‘greatest’ weakness. So prepare an answer to your ‘second greatest weakness’ to avoid being put on the spot!
Have you been asked this question?
How did you answer this tricker question? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.