The weakness question. One of the most feared and misunderstood questions. Yes it is cliché, but that doesn’t mean it is going to go away. In fact what I have seen throughout my 15 years of recruitment is that the weakness question has evolved and that also means the expectations of a candidate and their answer have evolved too.
Just to clear the air, the weakness question is not meant to get you to show how you are NOT the right person for the job, it isn't a trick question meant to trip you up! It is a question to figure out your ability to recognize a weakness, problem or obstacle, come up with a plan to mitigate or overcome the issue and then move forward successfully.
It is a self-awareness question.
And right now the work world is changing drastically. The need has increased for management to focus on high level strategic thinking and not hand holding their employees. Employees who more and more are working from home. Therefore, organizations need to know that they can count on you to notice a problem before it grows into something that has wider ramifications. That is why this question is so important.
I want you to improve your interview skills and show you the key answers to avoid giving so that a recruiter is not rolling their eyes at your answer (it happens, trust me) and eliminating you as a potential fit for the role.
1. Strength wearing a Weakness Mask
The weakness that is not really a weakness. This was what we used to coach individuals on how to answer this (and how some still coach – but please DO NOT listen to them!). Like I mention above, recruiters, hiring managers and organizations want MORE now. And this answer doesn’t tell them how you actually deal with the difficult times that are sure to come and that are a normal part of a career. What it does tell them is that you are either a “smooth talker” always trying to talk your way out of situations or someone who lets others do the fixing for them.
2. “I’m a perfectionist, a workaholic, scared of public speaking”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the above I would be one rich lady. These are so overused! So even if these are your weaknesses, you can’t use them. Well, you can’t use them with these words, there is another way to handle it but that is a recruiter secret for next week. Using one of these common answers tells the interviewer that you are unimaginative and that you just googled a answer.
3. A Hard Skill
Hard skills are something that anyone can learn and overcome. Yes it may be easier for others but think about it, how easy to realize you aren’t good at a technology or a hard skill! Does it actually take some self-awareness? Not really. So what it tells the recruiter is that your Emotional Intelligence is low and that you would rather look at easy things to fix instead of the hard work required to overcome a soft skill weakness.
4. Not My Fault
This type of answer is rage inducing as a interviewer. It is defensive, it puts the blame onto others, and it makes you look bad. Make sure you aren’t using the words “it wasn’t my fault”, “it seemed to my boss that I”, “I was surprised that my manager had that feedback as…” – all of those mean that someone else’s perception is faulty, not you. It tells the hiring manager that you don’t take accountability for your actions, that you will always point fingers and that you are clueless.
5. I don’t really have a weakness
Major eyeroll. Honestly this was so annoying as a recruiter to hear this, even if it was a joke! I couldn’t help but think I was dealing with someone who was truly delusional. Everyone has a weakness. Everyone.
So if you can’t use any of those to create an answer well then what can you use?
An honest answer.
One that talks about an obstacle you faced in your career. Maybe you received feedback from a boss on how you handled a client, or maybe you made the wrong choice in a key decision or maybe you failed in some way.
Tell them about that time. And then about what you did to overcome it. Finish with how this helped mold you to become the person you are today.
That is a formula that is sure to show that you are self-aware, that you own up to your own actions and are willing to do what it takes to succeed, even if it means doing a lot of work on yourself.
If you need more help, schedule a Discover Your Career strategy call with me or think about Interview Coaching - your dream job is worth the investment.
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Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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