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Interview Question: What Are Your Weaknesses?

Interview Question: What's Your Weakness?Some of the trickiest job interview questions are the ones about your weaknesses. Questions like these can make you feel a little paranoid!

  • “What is your biggest weakness in your work?”
  • “What are three areas in which your supervisor wants/wanted you to improve?”
  • “What’s your growing edge – what do you wish you could do better?”
  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Why are they asking this?

While it is always possible a candidate will reveal a deal-breaking issue, thus saving the employer thousands of dollars by avoiding a bad hire, I don’t believe this is most interviewers’ primary motivation.

Employers know you’re not perfect. What they don’t know is whether you are coachable, whether you take feedback well, whether you’re self-aware enough and motivated enough to see what you can improve – and actually improve it. Can you turn your weaknesses into strengths, or at least effectively work around them to get the job done superbly?

Tips for planning a good answer to interview questions about weaknesses:

  • Talk about a weakness you’re handling really well, or a skill you’re currently improving. If you can be specific about how you’re improving it – e.g., “I’m taking a class at UC Berkeley Extension” or “My manager wrote great things about this in my recent performance evaluation” – all the better.
  • Sandwich a weakness between strengths. Begin and end your answer with positives, like what you’re doing to improve your performance, or a strength that goes hand-in-hand with the weakness: “I’m very deadline-oriented, so occasionally, to move things along faster, I do something myself that I really could have delegated …”
  • Mention a weakness you’ve largely overcome already. If you take this approach, be careful not to sound like you’re dodging the question. Be authentic.
  • Address a weakness the employer is already well aware of, for example lack of a certain qualification, while making the case for your ability to obtain that qualification and/or excel without it.
  • Name a skill you lack that is so cutting edge that the very fact that you’re concerned about it shows that you set high standards for yourself.
  • Don’t disqualify yourself by bringing up a weakness that casts serious doubt on your ability to do the job. For example, if you’re interviewing for a job as a project manager, don’t say you lack assertiveness.

Try out your answer on a friend or an interview coach, and ask for feedback. Does your answer to “What’s your weakness?” show that you’re a mature professional who knows he/she is not perfect but is constantly growing while doing an excellent job overall?

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