Two steps to successfully answer the question: What is your greatest weakness?
What is your greatest weakness? If you could improve one aspect about yourself to positively impact your career, what would it be?
The weakness question is a very common interview question interviewers love to ask, yet a question often found hard to answer. Why? Candidates find it hard as they will be exposing themselves/their current flaws, and unless there is some positive resolution it might cost them the job. Employers like this question as it also offers a chance to learn how self-aware candidates are and how willing they are to improve. The way in which the question is answered can say a lot about the respondent’s personality and their cultural fit in the organisation.
Below are two steps to successfully answer the weakness question.
Step 1: Identify your weakness and think about how this weakness has impacted your work
To identify your weakness, it helps by first understanding what not to do…
1. Don’t - mention you have no weakness as there is room for improvement in all of us.
2. Don’t - mention a weakness that will strongly impact you in a negative way your chances of getting the job. For example, if you are interviewing for a client services role, do not mentioned you are not comfortable talking to external clients (if this were the case, you’re applying for the wrong position).
3. Don’t - present a “strength in disguise”. For example, I work too hard.
Choose a true and interview-friendly weakness that can be improved with some work and effort. It could be a weakness you have been trying to overcome such as challenges around public speaking or dealing with other stressful situations. It could be your organisational skills that need to be improved or how you give performance reviews to your team. Examples are given further below.
Step 2: How have you overcome or plan to overcome this weakness?
After you have identified your weakness, you should demonstrate to your interviewer how you are overcoming this, backed up with some examples of your progression. This desire for self-improvement is one of the most sought-after qualities that hiring managers are looking for. By having a good answer for overcoming a weakness, you greatly enhance your chances for securing the position.
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Examples of good answers to the question: What is your weakness?
Example 1, Public Speaking
“I’ve always felt apprehensive speaking in public and at times it’s prevented me from speaking out, sharing ideas and contributing in meetings etc. To help self-improve here, I recently pursued a public speaking course to overcome the fear by exposing myself to it. With some practice, I became more comfortable, and I recently volunteered to do a training session presenting in front of my department. This was very successful receiving some great feedback, but I still recognise there is room for improvement and I intend to keep at it.”
Example 2, Stress Management
“I often catch myself micro-managing when under periods of stress which usually affects my relationship negatively with my team members. Over the past few years I’ve managed to reduce these episodes to almost non-existent levels now by learning to de-stress through meditation. Not only does meditation solve the weakness challenge but it’s made me more productive generally.”
Example 3, Sharing Negative feedback
“As a new manager, I found it challenging to have those difficult discussions with my team during performance reviews - such as providing constructive/negative feedback. I recently joined a training course for new managers which helped me identify areas of improvement. I’ve learnt that preparation is key and to incorporate positive outcomes as much as possible. For example, if someone in my team is consistently failing at something, we work together to identify the cause, to focus on the persons strengths and how best to use those strengths so we can overcome the problem.
Example 4, Disorganisation
“I used to be quite a disorganised person who struggled to plan my time effectively. This often resulted in working long hours in the office. As I recently started to take a night course, I realised that managing my time is vitally important in order to leave the office on time for the classes. I started using daily planner to help organise my day and prioritise my work. By allocating time to each task it helped me focus and get things done more efficiently.
Example 5, Asking for help
“I usually like to investigate and solve issues alone as its useful for learning. I’m often reluctant to ask for help as well as I prefer not to be a hindrance to colleagues who are busy with their own priorities. Most recently, there was an issue with the delivery of a client report. I spent many hours investigating but could not understand the root of the problem and the client was chasing me for an update. I finally decided to escalate it to my manager who helped me solve the issue. I learnt through this that it’s ok not to know everything and to ask for help, especially if the client experience is impacted.”
In summary, the best way to tackle this weakness question is with preparation. Identify your weakness/area of improvement then present a solution on how you are trying to overcome it. By presenting this weakness with a solution, you will be able to turn this weakness to a strength!
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