Interviews are stressful enough without having to answer: What is your biggest weakness! That question still makes me uneasy to think about. Yet it is one of top questions asked. The best response is an honest response – but not too honest.
What I mean is that you need to be honest yet not show vulnerability. If you believe your biggest weakness is being too sensitive, like one of my former clients, that just might be too honest! You need to show your potential employer that despite your weaknesses, you can do a great job.
We’re human. We all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. How to answer what is your biggest weakness should be rehearsed so you’re not caught off guard at your next interview.
Use these tips to tackle that question without sounding like you’re not prepared to work hard and achieve great things for your next employer.
- Pick a genuine weakness.
What is an area in your professional life that you find challenging? Or an area where you’re making improvements? Don’t make something up – if you’re caught lying, you won’t be offered the job and 71% of candidates are caught lying so the odds are against you. In that same study, appearing arrogant also stifles any chance of being hired. So, be genuine. Don’t think of this question as something to be used against you.
Chose a weakness relevant to the position. You don’t want to talk about the challenges you face making a pie crust when you’re applying for a position in marketing. Find something relevant.
If you still can’t think of anything, think about how you work with people. What challenges have you faced working with people? Are you shy? Do you talk too much? Again, think of something that is a weakness and that you’re working on overcoming.
- Provide context.
Once you’ve selected a weakness, open up and be honest about how it has been a challenge for you. For example, let’s say your biggest weakness is remembering things. You might say something like, “My memory has always been a challenge for me. I would get frustrated that I couldn’t remember the things I was asked to do. Often, this led to me doing things that were not as important or critical at the time as I was fishing for what needed to be done.”
Be honest. I cannot reiterate this enough!
- Give a specific example.
Come prepared with a specific example. You’ve provided context – being unable to remember things leaves you frustrated. No one wants a frustrated employee so don’t leave that as the last thing your potential employer remembers. Give a very specific example. “One example of a challenge I had with my memory was evident during the launch of a new marketing campaign. We were under an incredibly tight deadline to launch in time for Cyber Monday. Our team ended up working 12-hr days through the Thanksgiving weekend and we were still barely ready by midnight on Sunday. I realized that spending time on less important tasks while trying to remember what actually needed to be done cost our team valuable time. I owed it to my team and myself to improve my memory.”
- Share what you’re doing to improve and how it’s making a difference.
- You just dropped a bomb! Quickly share what you’re doing now! What proactive approaches have you taken?
In the example about memory, you can add, “After barely making the launch, I decided to start carrying small spiral-bound notebooks with me. When I was given a list of things that needed to be done, I wrote them down and prioritized the things on the list immediately. I also use my cell phone, when appropriate, to take audio notes.”
Don’t forget to tell them how it’s making a difference. “I found that my productivity really improved. I also found that I had extra time in my day to step up and help members on my team.”
- Talk about the progress you’re making.
Here is where you want to leave the last impression with your potential new boss that even though this was a huge weakness, you identified it, did something about it, and you can prove it. Let your interviewer know that other people have noticed that you’ve overcome your weakness. For example, “As a result of increasing productivity, my supervisor assigned me to a new role where I now manage the launch of all of our marketing campaigns.”
Yes! The honest truth is that nobody is perfect. Your interviewer knows this. They just want an honest answer that shows you’re aware that you’re not perfect. And that you’re willing to put in the work to identify and overcome your weaknesses.
If you’re on the hunt for a new job, spend some time preparing for this question. And the next time you’re asked “what is your biggest weakness,” you’ll be ready.
Sick of applying for jobs and not hearing back? Click HERE for a FREE course on how to land a job you love!