Do I have your attention? In this post, you’re going to learn some strategies for handling the one dreaded question: “What is your biggest weakness?” You may have heard this question worded differently, but if you’ve EVER been interviewed, you know which question I’m talking about.
There are some classic responses to this type of question, ranging from practically sucking up, “Sometimes I just push myself to work too hard”, to the classic Homer Simpson response, “I’m pretty lazy and stuff starts disappearing around the office”.
As you may know by now, my first question for your preparation is “Do you know your audience?”
Remember, they’re rarely interested in your actual weakness, unless you choose to blurt out something about criminal activity. The point here, generally, is to see how you answer the question. Tying your answer to what they are looking for (i.e. an IT guy with business skills or a Marketing person who can speak to engineers) will show that you’re willing to grow and be the person they need to hire.
Here are some basic tips:
1. Stay away from core job requirements. If you are looking to go into PR or Marketing, don’t highlight a weakness in writing. If sales, don’t talk about poor people skills. IT helpdesk? You shouldn’t mention a lack of customer service skills. I’m not suggesting that you lie or attempt to go after jobs you are unqualified for. I mention this because if they want someone with college-level writing skills, and you have those skills but sometimes feel you are not perfect, your answer could be interpreted as not meeting the requirement, all based on what they think you say.
2. Use a weakness that has become less of a weakness lately. I think this is a well-documented tip. The point here is to say something like, “I was having some trepidation about speaking in front of an audience, but since I’ve joined Toastmasters, I’m improving and I’ve even given 6 speeches in front of an audience this year.” or “As a computer programmer, I want to better understand the business side of my job, so I’ve taken a couple of classes from the local community college on Organizational Behavior and Intro to Marketing. Now, I feel I’m gaining a better understanding of business acumen.”
3. Avoid the urge to ask the interviewer to share theirs.
4. Stay positive. Remember, it’s not really a weakness, it’s a future strength.
5. Stay brief. No matter how clever you or your weakness may be, there is never a need to spend real time talking about it. Make your comments succinctly and move on.
This is one of my least favorite interview questions I’ve ever had to deal with. But with a little practice and preparation, you can use this hated question to your advantage. Remember to know your audience, and of course work on improving those weaknesses. Take the time to be ready, and you’ll impress that hiring manager and ace that interview!
Future posts will cover some other questions, including the following:
“What is your leadership style?”
“How do you handle adverse situations?”