This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions in interviews and is critical. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate self-knowledge, honesty, commitment to self-improvement and perhaps a little self-deprecating humour. There is a strong likelihood that you will be asked this question and therefore you can prepare for it and perhaps a follow up question asking about other weaknesses.
DO NOT say you don’t have any or that many would consider your weaknesses strengths or you struggle with perfectionism or other such nonsense. Be honest, open and candid.
Position your weakness as something you did in the past and tell the interviewer what you have done to overcome it.
“I always like to help and in the past, I often agreed to do things that I did not get done. This got me into great difficulties because I disappointed people which was not good for them and not good for me – I hated letting them down.
I began asking for more information about the task, what was expected and when. If I did not think I could accomplish what was required in the time frame desired I would say something like “I am sorry, while I would like to help, I have too many other propriety projects to meet your requirements. If you had flexibility on what you need or the timing perhaps I could”.
This shifts the onus back on them to either modify their requirements so I could help or have them say I can’t be of assistance.”
As absurd as it may appear, you could focus on a weakness that is a key requirement for the role. For example, if leadership – you could talk about a leadership failure of the past, what you learnt from it and what you do now in leadership situations.
If you have access to the job description you could focus on one of the requirements for the role which would provide an opportunity to highlight that capability.
If you do not have access to the job description you could focus on one or two of the skills identified in a survey completed by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) in which employers identified the 10 skills sought when hiring college grads (in prioritized order):
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
- Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell and influence others
Be prepared for the possible follow up question “Tell me about a time you demonstrated your new approach to dealing with this weakness”. You will need to tell a story about a situation that he used your new techniques.
Respond using the STAR format:
Situation – what was happening.
Task – what you needed to do.
Action – what you did.
Result – what happened.
Preparation for this often asked question will contribute to an excellent interview and interviews get you the job.