Who loves answering the question, “What is your greatest weakness?” Basically no one. One of our seasoned recruiters, Joe Reardon, recently shed light on the right way to respond to this question. Hint: It’s different than what you’ve been doing.
He offered great advice on preparing for this question and explained that the important part of the answer is not necessarily the content, but the manner in which the content is presented.
The dreaded “What is your greatest weakness?” question may make you feel like the cards are being stacked against you. No one likes to admit that they are not good at something, and you may even worry that answering honestly will disqualify you for a position that you feel you are really well-suited for.
Just what is the intent of this question anyway? What insight is the interviewer looking for? Is it to identify your weakness or to learn how you treat a weakness? Or is it to determine whether or not you meet a requirement of the position?
As Joe mentioned in his blog, if the weakness opposes a requirement for the position, be honest and let the interviewer decide if that is enough of a reason to pull you from the process. If you are not a fit, it’s best to figure it out in the interview process, rather than on the job.
If you are asked a behavioral-type question, then approach it as an opportunity to address how you view your weakness and how have learned to manage it. Turn your weakness into strength – having the ability to honestly recognize your shortcomings and address them on a continuous basis shows a commitment to self-improvement and is a great personality trait.
It’s the old “turn lemons into lemonade” approach. If you can look at your shortcoming and balance it with one of your strengths, you have won the battle of answering this question. The key to making your answer believable is to believe it yourself. So don’t try this bit of advice unless you subscribe to it.
Let’s look at an example of what I am talking about. Imagine the interviewer is pressing you in on the “weakness” question. Pick one your strengths to relate it to. For instance, if you identify that you have a hard time meeting deadlines, attribute it to your strength of having an attention to detail.
“Because I have such a strong attention to detail, I often bump up to deadlines and have to work hard to meet them, which I do, but with more stress then I would like. To counter this, I have focused on improving my time management and planning skills to avoid that stress.”
By calling out an action to address your weakness, you show that you are conscious of your weakness and are being proactive to address it. It shows that you have made it a priority in your own self-development.
Again, with this approach, you’ve got to believe it to make it believable. So maybe this advice goes beyond answering a difficult interview question and is truly about how you approach your shortcomings and turn them into strengths. Everyone has them!
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