How-To: Our Guide to Answering the ‘What is Your Greatest Weakness?’ Interview Question
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It’s a tricky one that catches many people off guard.
The interview is flowing.
Your quick wit has even coerced a sort of half-smile out of your tough hiring manager.
Then, that dreaded question comes up:
‘So then, what is your greatest weakness?’
We all know that answering this question can make for quite a challenge. However, when you nail it (because you will!), you will have significantly increased your chances of getting a callback.
First Thing’s First
It is important to understand that your potential employer is not looking to make you sabotage yourself, so that they can laugh about you in the tea room afterwards. They don’t want to hear how you’ve managed to sugarcoat your weakness and transform it into a strength, either (like how you are an absolute perfectionist that is also a workaholic and is equally obsessive about being super dooper organised).
This question is asked to gauge your self-awareness – your hiring manager wants to know if you yourself understand your weaknesses, as this will then allow you to action next steps to target these areas of improvement at work. If you try to play it off as if you don’t have any, this will just make you seem like you haven’t taken the time to think about your professional development. They will also automatically deem you to be a person who is unable to accept their flaws and therefore unable to accept and action constructive criticism and feedback (not a sought-after quality you would see on many job listings, I’m sure).
Answering the Question
Let me let you in on a little secret: it’s not about what your answer is, but how you answer.
This question has been designed to put you on the spot. Even if you are prepared for it, it’s never easy talking about what you’re not so good at doing.
Here’s how to first identify a weakness of yours to discuss – ask yourself:
Once you’ve identified a weakness, the next part of your answer is incorporating what steps you have put into place to correct this. Your answer should focus on self-improvement: tell your interviewer about how you are being proactive about resolving your downfalls.
Also, double check that your ‘professional weaknesses’ don’t conflict with what desireable qualities are described in the job listing.
i.e. If it is required that you must be able to work well under pressure, you may want to refrain from discussing you struggle to keep up in stressful situations.
The STAR Method technique is a great way to establish answers and can be used to structure an answer to the ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ question. This technique works well it allows you to break down your answer into a simple step-by-step process that is very clear and concise.
See an example answer using the STAR Method below:
‘My greatest weakness is that I am not an overly confident person.’
‘The result is that I have a difficult time asserting my ideas, preferring to keep them to myself even if I know that they are good.’
‘I found that my lack of confidence stemmed from not having formal training in a major area of my work – I had learnt on the job, but I felt that I needed to solidify my knowledge so I decided to take a course.’
‘I found that after my training, with a conscious effort I was able to stand by
my ideas. My supervisor saw this noticeable change in me and gave me a promotion.’
Disguising the Question
Sometimes, interviewers like to restructure the stock-standard ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ question. However, they all essentially mean the same thing. Here are some other variations:
Weaknesses in the Workplace: List of Weaknesses That You Can Discuss in a Job Interview
So, you say that you’re the perfect employee; you’ve strained your brain for any weakness and have come up empty handed (yeah yeah, nice try). Well, if that really is the case and you need a ‘pretend weakness’, here’s a list of weaknesses to say in an interview:
Again, always mention a weakness that isn’t critical to the job.
How to Follow Up After Discussing Your Weakness
Never end your answer with your weakness without actually discussing the next steps you are taking to correct it. After you’ve defined your weakness, tell your interviewer exactly what it is you are doing to improve your downfalls. You could:
After you mention how you are improving, provide your interviewer with a clear example on how exactly you are making progress. If this is applicable to you, you could discuss: