The dreaded interview question: What are your weaknesses?
Not ready to spill the beans on your biggest flaws at your next important job interview? Unsurprisingly, we at the Alumni Association don’t recommend it either. ‘What are your biggest weaknesses’ is a clichéd question that has been the downfall of even the savviest and most prepared job candidates. But worry not, there is a reason why it gets asked and a way to impress your interviewer.
So why do interviewers ask about your weaknesses, and how should you answer them without damaging your chances of being hired?
First of all, it is generally not advisable to say you’re a perfectionist or you work too hard, which are unlikely to go down well with most interviewers, even if it’s true.
The question is designed to chip away at your polished presentation of your best self and see if you’ are:
a) too honest
b) overconfident in your own abilities
c) hiding a deal-breaking flaw
The way you answer the question can be very telling, even if you don’t actually admit to any of the above.
The interviewer is trying to identify candidates that are self-aware. You should demonstrate your ability to identify your own weakness or areas that need to be worked on and provide a solution. This in turn shows you are willing to improve and able to take initiative.
Therefore, your strategy for answering the question is to choose a small weakness and tell the interviewer how you are going to address it, or how you are already addressing it. Ta da!
Your weakness should be small, applicable and authentic.
We’ve provided a few example answers to get you started, but remember that the best answers need to come from you, as the interviewer will be able to tell if you’re not being honest.
“I get nervous speaking in public, such as giving presentations at interviews. I realised that the best way to address this was to practice, so at my current job I tried to put myself into that situation as much as possible. I also went to a free workshop on public speaking, which was a huge help. I recently gave a presentation to a client and my boss told me I had really improved. I now feel more confident putting my ideas across.”
“In my first management role, I wasn’t very good at delegating work to members of my team which put far too much pressure on myself. I realised this was because I thought that it made me look incapable of handling my workload, plus I was nervous about seeming too demanding. I spoke to my boss about it and she told me that my team were there to help! A sign of good leadership is knowing how to prioritise tasks and delegating work to the right people. Once I started doing this, I actually found that I was much more efficient and work is a lot less stressful, so I will continue to delegate effectively in my next role.”
“I used to find it difficult to work on different projects at the same time, preferring to finish one project before I went on to the next. This often left me feeling rushed and stressed before deadlines and I often worked very late. I researched time management skills and have since implemented a system which I still use to keep myself on track. I am now much less stressed at work and more productive.”