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Answering “What are your major weaknesses?” at the Interview

One of the trickier questions an interviewer might put to you is “what are your major weaknesses?”

What are you meant to say? If you list all your weaknesses, aren’t you just giving the interviewer reasons to think that you aren’t up to the job?

If you read most other interview advice guides, they will say that you should list some weaknesses that are just as much strengths. Things like “I am a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”.

But these responses are JUST PLAIN WRONG. Let me explain why.

In fact, I’ll let you in on a secret. It is my job as an interviewer to form my own opinion on what your strengths and weaknesses are and I will do so without you needing to tell me! But, if I DO ask you “what are your major weaknesses?” then I will be looking for three key things:

  1. Self awareness
  2. Awareness of your impact on others
  3. Self development

So work out what your weaknesses are, and package them with the following three steps to make your interviewer know that you are the right person for the job!

  1. Self awareness

    As an interviewer, I want to see that you are aware how your ‘weakness’ really is a weakness.

    For instance, your reply may start along the lines of “One of my weaknesses is that I can be a perfectionist which sometimes means that I need to work long hours in order to get things done to the high standards I set myself.

    As an example, I needed to complete a proposal for a new client, and I was up until 2am the morning before the presentation getting it finished, which I realise could make my work suffer the next day."

    Okay, so you’ve established the fact that you are TRULY AWARE that you have a WEAKNESS. You’re already scoring well now. Time to go on to the next stage.

  2. Awareness of your impact on others

    Your weakness may also be impacting others in a negative way, so it is good to show that you are aware of how your behaviour rubs off on other people.

    (By the way, strong candidates, especially in an environment where teamwork is important, will ALWAYS be demonstrating that they are aware of their impact on others.)

    So, to continue our example, you might say something along the following lines:

    “I am aware that people who work with me can find it tiring to work with someone who will push themselves to deliver such a high standard on every piece of work that they do.”

    Okay, so now you’re showing that you’re really on top of this weakness, and that you’re not trying to show it off as some kind of strength.

    Now it’s time to go in for the kill! I will be putty in your hands if you go on to step 3!!

  3. Self development

    Finishing your response off in this way will truly show that you understand that you have a weakness and THAT YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!

    Remember, everyone has weaknesses. They are not something to be hidden, but something to be FIXED. So show your interviewer that you have set about FIXING your weaknesses. Again, examples are useful.

    The response may finish something like this:

    “I am now making a conscious effort on every piece of work I do to ask myself whether pushing myself to the ‘perfect’ solution is really being efficient or whether I would be better off putting some time into other things. I am also involving my team to give me advice on when they think I am over-doing things, and I am also asking my manager to let me know when I have done too much.

    I think that I will always strive to over deliver – that’s just the kind of person I am – but I am also trying to make sure that I work more efficiently and without tiring out people around me”

Wrap-up

So, now do you see how you should REALLY be answering the ‘weakness’ question?

Follow the three steps above, and your interviewer will know that they are talking to a high quality candidate who will continue to grow and flourish in their company.

-Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis has extensive experience of selecting, recruiting and retaining exceptional

personnel in a variety of professional roles. For the full text of this article, visit Careerfriend at www.careerfriend.com now.