This post is the first in a series of excerpts from my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview, about giving effective answers to the most common interview questions.
How do you answer the interview question “What’s your biggest weakness?”
In most cases, the interviewer isn’t just asking this to find out if there’s a weakness that would disqualify you. They’re even more interested in finding out whether you’re self-aware and willing to openly discuss your shortcomings, which would indicate that you probably take feedback well. And they want to hear that you are committed to continually improving your skills.
With that in mind, try talking about…
…a weakness that’s closely connected to one of your greatest strengths. For example, if you’re great at relationship-building and that’s crucial to the job you’re applying for, you might mention that you sometimes spend more time listening to a client or co-worker than you intended to. (But if it really isn’t a weakness at all, it will sound evasive and insincere, so pick something else.)
…an “elephant in the room” weakness that’s already very noticeable to the employer – such as having less experience than they would prefer – so you have nothing to lose by bringing it up.
…a weakness you have largely overcome or that you compensate for very successfully.
No matter what weakness you bring up, keep it brief and spend more time talking about how you’re overcoming it than about what a problem it is. And avoid words like “weakness” and “problem” in your answer. Use more positive words like “challenge,” “growing edge” and “area where I’m growing.”
Of course, don’t bring up a weakness that would cause them to seriously doubt you can do the job.
Realize that certain answers – especially “I’m a perfectionist” and “I work too hard” – have been used so often they’ve become clichés and should be avoided, unless you can put a fresh spin on them.