it’s the same old dreaded question we have all come to face at some time in our career. Whichever way the interviewer decides to phrase it, you know it’s coming. Like a bullet to the soul.
‘What would you say is your greatest weakness?”
‘if we were to talk to your previous boss, what area’s would they say you need some development on?’
“what difficulties or frustrations have you encountered within your current role?”
Translated these all ask the same thing. What are you not so great at?
Naturally, the very last thing you want to be doing in an interview situation is telling them about your ‘bad points’. The truth usually hurts and in this instance, it may also cost you a job. So what do you do about it? Swerve the question? Lie? Or rehearse a well thought out response prior to the interview.
Answer. None of the above.
You need to understand why the interviewer is asking this question in the first place. They obviously know that you are highly unlikely to tell them something that could jeopardise your chances of getting the job. You need to remember the main purpose of them asking this predictable question is to see how you answer it. The most common mistakes candidates make, is to do the following.
1) Try to turn a strength into a weakness e.g. I work too hard/care too much/am a perfectionist. The interviewer will see straight through this response and it will probably get them more suspicious that you are trying to actually hide something far more sinister. It also indicates that you a bare faced liar. Hardly a good start.
2) Not answer the question. ‘ I can’t think of any weaknesses I have. I am well rounded in all the aspects that this role requires’ This demonstrates that you are either an arrogant fool that loves themselves and genuinely believes they are perfect, or completely ignorant and failing to recognise any feedback they may have gained from previous bosses. Neither will stand you in good stead for securing the position. So what to do?
1) Have an honest look at yourself and identify what area’s you have historically found more difficult to negotiate within your career to date.
Write them down. E.g. numeracy, managing teams, lack of technical know-how when it comes to IT, public speaking etc.
2)Next, analyse whether these limitations are temporary and can be overcome with a workable plan of action. E.g. undertake a refresher course in mathematics, shadowing an existing team leader for 6 months, or enrolling on an IT training programme.
If the organisation can help you to overcome your current weaknesses with some practical support, then all is not lost. Just be careful not to list personal limitations, “I’m not really a morning person” will not win you much sympathy and it’s definitely NOT something that they can help you with.
3) Take action.
It’s all well and good talking about your weaknesses and demonstrating that they can be improved. But remember, you will come across a LOT more impressive if you are already working on rectifying your weaknesses prior to the interview. Enrol on a course to improve your IT skills, book those French lessons. Do it now. This effort will put you in a much more favourable position with the interviewer. They will see you as an individual who has the ability to reflect on their limitations and have the initiative to take a decisive plan of action to self improve.
By asking the dreaded weakness question, try to remember that the interviewer is not trying to trip you up.
They are simply trying to look past the smiley interview face and see the real person behind the mask.
They want to understand how you work a little better and they are trying to reduce their risk of taking on the wrong person.
Interviewers need the deal to work for both parties so if you are honest with yourself, it’s a sensible question to ask. After all, we all know, nobody’s perfect.
What’s your greatest weakness?
Like this post? You may want to take a look at why great leaders invest in people