Tough Question: What are your weaknesses?

Controlling your message and ensuring that your interviewer walks away with a clear sense of who you are is one of the keys to a successful interview.  But despite our best intentions and preparation, most people walk into an interview with a few questions they really hope they don’t have to answer.

So, how to handle one of the most-dreaded questions of all time: What are your weaknesses? I have a three-part strategy to answering this question that will get you through your next interview with more success and less anxiety.

To ace this question, make sure your answer:

1) Is real.  Every interviewer is sick of hearing candidates say things like, “I work too hard” and “I care too much.” As interviewers, we know why candidates give answers like this. People are afraid to expose any actual weakness, so they try to “spin” a strength into sounding like a weakness.  Well, guess what? Managers and recruiters hear this all the time, and we see right through this strategy.  Trying to spin your answer isn’t doing you any favors. For starters, it comes across as inauthentic. Secondly, it doesn’t help the interviewer get to know you. The interview is, after all, like a date. The goal is to get to know you. So if you don’t say something that is really true to who you are, you’re missing an opportunity to let them get understand you.

2)  Does not describe something that is critical for the role. This is important. Let me give an example of what I mean here. I have interviewed many candidates for administrative assistant roles. I always ask the weaknesses question. Some candidates talk about their weaknesses in handing details and logistics. Those answers sounded very real, but why would I hire an admin who isn’t good at details when the job by nature requires being good at details? Obviously, I wouldn’t. So they key is to pick something that is true about you, but something that isn’t a core skill or ability for the job. Going into a big picture or strategy role? Sure, say details are your weakness. But if you’re going into a job as an analyst or an admin, pick something that is less relevant to the role.

3) Shows how you’ve improved. Once you’ve been very up front and honest about your weakness, show some self-awareness and motivation by talking about what you’ve done to improve in this area. This could be by asking for help from a teammate who is strong in your area of weakness, taking extra classes, or leaving yourself more time for certain kinds of tasks. The key is that you’ve taken some step to improve and to ensure that you still get your work done excellently.

What are your least favorite interview questions?

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