One of the most common questions asked by interviewers is "What is your greatest weakness?". I ask this question often when I interview candidates. Like most interviewers, I hate when candidates give me one of those fake weaknesses that is really a strength. For instance, they might answer "I have a tendency to work too hard" or "Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist". I usually cut the candidate off mid-sentence and tell them to stop the BS. Of course, I have had candidates also tell me a real weakness that negatively affects their candidacy. For instance "I am not very detail oriented" or "I get tired very early and have a hard time focusing after 5pm".
So, how should you answer? Well, here is the secret.
You want to give a real weakness that you are already in the process of addressing. This does not mean that you have already overcome the weakness. By asking this question, most interviewers want to evaluate whether or not you have the ability to overcome challenges. In most competitive jobs, you will be forced to address your weaknesses. You can`t give up when you are confronted with a difficult situation.
Strong Answer #1
I have very good verbal skills but have always had to work
hard in math. This year, I decided to take a math course to help solidify my
Weak Answer #1
Sometimes I am too focused on getting the job done and don’t
spend time focusing on the people around me. This can cause some tension among my colleagues who feel
that I can be very aloof.
Strong Answer #1 is very straightforward. It presents the weakness and describes
how the candidate has actively sought to overcome the weakness. Weak Answer #1 presents an entirely
different scenario. The candidate
offers what I call a pseudo-weakness.
“Being too focused” is not a real weakness it may be viewed by many as a
strength. I am not saying that you
won’t get away with an answer like this.
You very well may. And
there is no harm in trying.
However, as the interviewer, I would ask you to give me another weakness
or I might just write you off as one of those candidates that is too arrogant
to believe that they have any weaknesses.
Strong Answer #2
I have always been nervous speaking in public. This year
however, I volunteered for a project in which I had to present to senior
management. The presentation went
pretty well. Of course, I was
extremely nervous, but I got through it.
Now, I am less intimidated by those sorts of experiences.
Weak Answer #2
I have always been nervous speaking in public. One time, I
was at a client meeting and I kind of freaked out when my boss asked me to
present part of the presentation.
I froze up and fumbled through the numbers and my boss had to step
in. This year however, I
volunteered for a project in which I had to present to senior management. The presentation went pretty well. Of course, I was extremely nervous, but
I got through it. Now, I am less
intimidated by those sorts of experiences.
Strong Answer #2 like Strong Answer #1 presents a common
weakness, yet it also addresses how the person has sought to overcome the
problem. Weak Answer #2
presents the same weakness, but the candidate gives much too much information
about the weakness. It is enough
for you to simply touch on the weakness.
There is no need to give explicit examples of how the weakness manifests
itself, unless you are asked by the interviewer. You want the interviewer to focus on your process to
overcome the weakness, not the weakness itself.
Check out these additional examples of Personal Interview Questions: