How to answer the weakness question!

It’s a question that always seems to arise in an interview and one that few people prepare themselves for. The dreaded “What are your weaknesses?” question. It may be dressed up as “What are your areas of development?”, but it still means the same thing and has brought many an experienced interviewee out into a cold sweat.

You don’t want to show the interviewer your warts as, after all, you really want this job. You want them to know what you are good at, not all the things you can’t do.

So, what is the right way to go about answering this question and still paint yourself in a good light?

Keen to seek the perfect answer, we put the question to a group of job hunters of all levels of experience. The best answer came from the President of an Environmental Service Company. This, is brilliant advice:

“I’m no expert, but here is how I think one should handle this type of question.

1st – identify one of your true weaknesses, everybody has them,
2nd – identify what you’ve done to overcome the weakness or attempt to avoid it or minimise the effect,
3rd – weave yourself a storyline to be used in the interview, make it short and concise so that you can quickly move on to the next question,
4th – include a real world example,
5th – overall be honest with yourself and with the interviewer…after all, the question isn’t intended to actually determine your weakness, it’s intended to see how you handle the question. The worst thing you can do is lie or give a trite answer like “I have no real weaknesses” as a good interviewer will see right through it. Also, if your real weakness is one that truly threatens your chance to be good at the job, maybe, for your own sake, you should be looking for a different job. The honesty part helps you most of all.

Here is my storyline, and it is all true…”I’m a knowledge hound, when I get involved in a new area, I dive in and learn everything I can until I am completely confident in my knowledge. I also enjoy teaching folks and sharing my knowledge. Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I can come off as arrogant. To protect against coming off as arrogant, I have developed a few techniques.

Firstly, I try to ask a lot of questions. This helps keep the conversation two way instead of it becoming a lecture, it also helps me focus on the exact information the other party would like to learn.

Secondly, I developed a specific technique as a result of a specific incident in a sales call. I was once accused of lying. A very technical customer said that it was impossible for me to be able to answer all of his questions, so I must be lying to him in at least one of my answers. After that, I was always sure to intentionally leave at least one question unanswered. I would tell the customer that while I couldn’t answer the question right now, I could get him the answer. Then I would call the customer within an hour after leaving the sales call, and provide the answer. This would work doubly well in that I would never be suspected of lying merely because I was able to answer all the questions, and it would show my commitment to getting the customers’ questions answered by using my network of resources.”

The main thing to remember when answering this question is to ensure that you explain to the interviewer what it is you need to do, or are doing, to overcome that weakness. This tells the employer that you are proactive, you seek to strengthen your skills and would develop within the role.

Everyone has weaknesses, but not everyone has a plan as to what they are going to do about it. Make sure you do!

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One Response to “How to answer the weakness question!”

  1. Chris says:

    I always say “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”, which sounds like a very good weakness to have in many cases.

    Although you can’t really use that answer if you’re applying for a job as a brain surgeon mind you.

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