“So, what are your weaknesses?”
It’s everybody’s least favorite interview question (really, we asked)–and it really puts a wrinkle in the whole put-your-best-foot-forward philosophy. It’s a pressure-cooker type of question, but I think it’s important not to blow it out of proportion. Remember, you don’t even have to pick a really big weakness. “I have an unpredictable and explosive violent temper” is one that probably makes for better discussion in a therapy session than in a job interview. Something to keep in mind is that everyone has weaknesses, and employers are just looking to see if you have the self awareness to know what they are as well as how you keep them from affecting your work. So here are some tips for how to put your best/worst foot forward:
Pick a weakness that is part of a strength: one tactic might be to choose a back-handed-compliment sort of weakness. This one feels a little like cheating, but it’s effective and keeps the focus on your strengths. For example you can talk about how your motivation to do great work can sometimes cause you to be a perfectionist, where you might be inclined to spend too much time on a single task. You can say you deal with this weakness by keeping a checklist of your job duties for the day to remind yourself that there are other things that need to be done.
Pick a weakness that has caused you to learn or grow: here’s a real answer I gave for this question in a job interview (and I got the job): “I had a job where I worked in a basement by myself with nothing but the hum of computers to keep me company. I understand that this is a dream job for some people, but I learned quickly that working alone was not for me. Since then I sought out job opportunities where I either worked directly with people or among a team. If I need to I can work by myself, but I really like working with other people.” Then I transitioned the discussion into how working with people is why I was interested in the opportunity for which I was interviewing.
The main thing you want to remember when you’re thrown the “What are your weaknesses?” question is to always follow up your answer with how you manage your weaknesses. If you can redirect your answer back to your qualifications for the job, even better.
Have you found success with answering this question? Comment below on how you were able to do it.