One of the most commonly asked questions in a job interview, and the most challenging to answer, is: ‘Describe your weaknesses’ or ‘what are your weaknesses?’ Let’s find out why it is being asked and how best to address it.
Why ask about weaknesses in a job interview?
Interviewers don’t want to know that you have a weakness for sugary snacks, that you can be a bit needy or can binge watch Netflix for up to 10 hours. There are three key reasons an interviewer wants you to answer questions about your weaknesses:
- Self-awareness – by understanding weaknesses relating to work, you will demonstrate self-awareness
- How you deal with weaknesses – the second reason flows out of the first. Now you know that you have a weakness or weaknesses, how do you deal with it? How do you mitigate any negative consequences?
- Finally, what have you learnt from being aware and dealing with it?
If it’s not obvious, a recruiter needs to know that you can identify where you might be falling short or could improve. They’ll want to know how you deal and learn from it rather than barging on, annoying your colleagues and not improving.
How to answer questions about weaknesses
There are two key takeaways here. First, keep it work related or at least relate it to work and second, keep it positive. If you are tackling the weakness and learning from it, your reply should, by definition, be positive.
This is the challenge, what weaknesses should I use? The behaviour or trait may not in and of itself be a weakness, but the result may be. Here’s an example: ‘I can pay far too much attention to detail.’ The result might be that sometimes more time is spent on a project than needed. The weakness is the result of a good trait.
It’s worth taking time to think about your past behaviours and how people at work have reacted, that way you’ll uncover possible weaknesses. Even if you didn’t deal with it, think about how you could and think about what you have learnt.
It’s important to choose positive weaknesses such as: ‘I can be over critical of team members who aren’t pulling their weight. I deal with this by listening to them and understanding where they are at. I have learnt that we all work at different paces.’
What you DO NOT want to say is: ‘sometimes I just cannot be bothered. I deal with this by getting a coffee and having a chat with my colleagues. I have learnt that work isn’t everything.’
Give an example
So, you have brainstormed your weaknesses, got a killer reply and then the interviewer says, ‘can you give me an example at work where this has happened?’
Always prepare an example, even if it is slightly edited from the real-life situation. Ideally include it in your original reply.
- Interviewers want to know you are self-aware, know how to deal with weaknesses and learn
- Keep it work related
- Prepare and practice in advance
- Be positive
- Have examples ready
Have you got everything covered? Checkout our Interview Checklist here.