We can never talk enough about interviews. In the past, we have talked about answering some generic interview questions like “can you walk me through your CV?“, “can you tell me about yourself?“among others. Today we will discuss about how to talk about your weaknesses during an interview. In other words, how to answer “what is your biggest weakness?”
Some variations could sound like:
-What are some of your weaknesses?
-Can you tell me about a development goal you have set?
-What is that one thing about you which you think you can improve upon?
Why is this question asked, you wonder. There could be a couple of reasons like:
- To try to look beyond your interview persona, wanting to get a more comprehensive understanding.
- To see how self-aware and self-reflective you are.
- To try to understand your standards of good and bad.
- How you overcome a professional hurdle and a challenge which is essentially self-created.
Interviews can be really stressful and talking about one’s weakness can further increase the level of anxiousness. The following tips and cues will help you to prepare well and answer the question with conviction.
You can’t talk about each and every minor weakness you have. You need to “pick” a weakness which is real, relevant to the professional setting and fixable. Let us delve more in the three adjectives used:
The weakness picked should be real and authentic. You shouldn’t randomly “pick” a weakness from a Google search generated list of generic weaknesses just because its answer is readily available online and it sounds good.
Nor you should just invent or “borrow” a weakness you don’t actually have just for the sake of answering the question.
For your answer to be convincing and specific you have to talk about a weakness you think you actually have. Interviewers can generally see past inauthentic storytelling and generic answers.
But make sure to differentiate between a peculiar habit and a weakness. That brings us to our next point.
Peculiarly bad habits might be seen as a weakness in a sense but if they don’t interfere with your professional life in any way, talking about them is useless. After all, the interviewer wants to know how you overcome challenges at work and more specifically how you overcome professional challenges which involve just you.
For example, nail biting when nervous is a peculiar habit but it doesn’t really concern work.
Talking about weaknesses which will never even potentially affect your work in any way is useless. Your inability to draw won’t matter if you are not involved with the fine arts and graphic designing.
The weakness you talk about should be fixable.
Let us look at an example of a fairly quickly fixable weakness and one of a weakness that may take time to fix. Lack of delegating skills is a fixable weakness which can be learnt by simply reminding oneself to delegate and learning a few tricks; whereas a fear of public speaking is a weakness one overcomes gradually.
So when you talk about a weakness, let the interviewer know the steps you are taking/planning to take to tackle that.
A note of caution here: a weakness which goes against the nature of your job should get you thinking whether you want to go for such a job in the first place. Plus it risks becoming a red-flag for the interviewer. Could a salesperson who doesn’t have good interpersonal skills be a good salesperson? Or could a person who works in an ad agency afford to not be creative? Your shyness might be irrelevant in a job where you mostly work on your own but a hurdle if your job will involve talking to team members and large groups.
Finally, this brings us to how not to answer this question:
- By not answering the question: No one is without a weakness. Make sure you don’t dismiss the question altogether by asserting you don’t have any weakness.
- Mental gymnastics: You don’t want to talk about a weakness and then through logical leaps and play of words to prove that it is in fact, a strength. This may sound clever but can make you come across as cocky and a wiseacre.
Thus talking about one’s weakness could be seen as one exercise of planning self-improvement and self-reflection. Talking about a real, relevant and fixable weakness can help the interviewer as well as the interviewee in seeing things with clarity.