It’s the question we all dread in an interview. How do you tell a prospective employer what your greatest weakness is when you have no idea what it is they really want to achieve by finding out the answer?
This is one of those questions that has been used for many years but no real thought goes into why it is asked and what the answer really means. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so what may be seen as your greatest weakness could be seen as a strength to someone else.
Right or wrong?
There is no right or wrong way to answer this question because it doesn’t really relate to anything. If your greatest weakness is that you laugh too much and you are being interviewed for a position as Funeral Director, then yes, that may impact the outcome negatively. However, it might also show that you are able to be warm and put people at ease which is, of course, an asset.
So as you can see it all depends on who is asking the question and what they want the outcome to be, so you cannot possibly give an answer that is correct. You can only give an answer that is truthful.
What do they really want you to say?
The reality is that what they really want to know is whether you are prepared to admit that you have weaknesses as this is a big indicator of your personality and how you would fit into a team and take responsibility for your actions. For example, a ‘narcissist’ would rarely admit to a weakness because they would find reason to blame others with anything that went wrong. They would struggle to answer this question. Most well-adjusted people would easily find at least one weakness, even if it is that you drink too much coffee while you work.
Ultimately, the best way to handle the dreaded question is to be prepared before you enter the interview. You know it is most likely going to be asked, so think about it before hand. Look at it in comparison to the position you are interviewing for and be prepared to acknowledge and share whatever your weakness is.
How to handle this question
When answering this question explain to your interviewer what you’ve learned from your weakness and how overcoming your weakness has made you more productive and professional.
Here is an example for you: I’ve always been a good technical writer but in my current role I had to overcome my weaker creative writing skills. To help me develop these skills I enrolled in a creative writing course and submitted work each week to my instructor for feedback. I also had the opportunity of critiquing my fellow students which opened my eyes to a range of writing styles. I now find it much easier to use my imagination to write.
So, what is your greatest weakness?
No matter how you choose to answer this question, be prepared for the follow-on questions, too. No decent interviewer will let you get by on a single answer to the question – especially if it’s juicy!
They will want to test you out to see if you’ve been honest, so the next questions are likely to be along the lines of “How did that affect your work?” or “How could you go about improving that aspect of your performance?”
Remember that the answer to this question is rarely the thing that makes the difference in the interviewer’s mind, so don’t imbue it with fear. It’s just another question on their list, so answer it and move on.
Professional interview coaching can prepare you for this and other tricky questions your interviewers might ask. Our experienced Career Consultants are highly experienced in coaching clients on how to develop an interview strategy and offer help with preparing for a job interview. Give us a call right now on 1800 155 895 or email us and we will arrange an appointment for you.
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