"Tell me about your greatest weaknesses?" You might go gulp, but it doesn't need to be that way. How do you tell an interviewer about your shortcomings without sounding like you’d be a no-go for the job?
It’s tricky for sure, but it can be done.
How to approach the weakness question
To start, reread the job description so you know what attributes and abilities are critical to the performance of the job. Those hard or soft skills shouldn’t be on your weakness list.
What to avoid in your answer
Classic examples include “I’m a perfectionist,” “I’m competitive,” and “I just work too hard.” Interviewers are on to these stock answers, but you can use them by adding details relevant to the job to show you’ve put real thought into it.
For example, you could say something like, “I hold myself to very high standards and sometimes put too much pressure on myself. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m starting to do this, such as spending a little too much time on bigger projects like quarterly reports, and I’m usually able to keep myself in check.”
Put your weaknesses in a positive light
Once you’ve established your weakness, craft a response to put it in the best positive light. How do you do that? Here are three suggestions:
Emphasize the positive, avoiding negative words like failure or inept.
Talk about how you’ve transformed your weakness into a strength.
Show how you recognize where you need to improve and take steps to better yourself.
What are the ways you can improve yourself to address a weakness?
Take a class or get training.
Discover tools, such as apps, to track your time, schedule breaks, or collaborate more smoothly.
Join professional groups or industry associations.
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Sample responses to "What are your weaknesses?"
“Although I always met my deadlines, I used to have a problem with procrastination, and I’d end up working really long days as a deadline approached. I decided that I needed to deal with the issue, so I took classes on project management and time management. I learned how to organize my days and attack bigger projects in manageable chunks. Now, I put together a plan as soon as I get a new assignment, and I often beat my deadlines.”
Another example illustrates how to use the requirements of the job to drive your answer. Let’s say you’re not a strong writer, and you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer. The job description emphasizes the need for production design skills and specific software experience but doesn’t mention anything about content creation. So you could answer the question about weaknesses in an interview like this:
“I’ve always been on the design side of things and haven’t had much experience with content development, so I’d say that’s a weakness for me. However, I’m a quick learner, and I believe I could improve my writing skills if I ever needed to for my job.”
If you’re applying for a position as a financial analyst and one of the requirements of the job is to give regular reports to upper management, you won’t want to emphasize to the hiring manager that you struggle with communication issues.
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