What are your weaknesses?
Understanding the concept of the most dreaded question in a personal interview:
We’ve all been through it – spending harrowing hours the day before an interview trying to predict what questions will pop up and how to best answer them. That right there is often the problem that interviewees overlook. You spend so much time trying to prepare the perfect answer but in the end, this might hurt you instead of helping you. Let’s look at that one question all interviewers seem to ask and many candidates don’t answer well.
What are your weaknesses?
Most often, people flock to the well known and used answer of “My biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist”.
There are a few reasons why this answer doesn’t bode well for many interviewees. One reason is that it is completely overused and unoriginal. Another is that it is an answer that is designed to try to make you look good and the person interviewing you can see right through this!
Let’s discuss how we can answer this question that troubles so many in a way that is honest and helpful to those answering.
How can you answer this:
There is no definite way of answering this question. Just make sure that your answer is honest, shows self- introspection and includes a story of self-improvement. This way whoever is asking the question knows that you have really spent time reflecting on your abilities and flaws. In addition, this shows, that you take initiative and have begun a journey with positive indications of self-improvement.
Let’s talk about it in detail:
Choosing a weakness:
This is the first and most important step to make your answer look genuine and acceptable. Therefore choose an answer that is:
- Obvious and has been noticed by the interviewer already: “English is not my primary language. My spoken English is not very good.” or “I haven’t had much work experience.”
- Something that is NOT extremely crucial for the role that you are applying for:
For a Finance Role: “I am not very good at interacting with people and I am socially awkward.”
For a Sales & Marketing Role: “I have always performed poorly in Mathematics. Trigonometry and Calculus are just not my cup of tea.”
- A common human failure that is shared by most people: “I find it hard to say no to people” or “I have not really made the most of the opportunities that life has given me”
Personalizing your story:
There are 2 ways to go about this one:
- End your story with the promise of improvement in the future: “ My academic scores from school are very good. But, somehow, in college, I have lacked motivation, possibly because my parent was not around to push me. I realize that it is time for me to grow up” Or “I have performed poorly in subjects that have bored me. I do realize in order to succeed in the future, I have to engage in projects that don’t excite me. I believe that I have the necessary discipline to power through boring routine tasks related to work.”
- End your story with indications of personal improvement already happening: “I have enrolled in a Toastmasters Club in my city to overcome the fear of public speaking.” Or “I have started reading more books and articles in order to improve my writing and reading skills as I came from non-English speaking background”
Do’s and Dont’s:
Here are a few tips to take forward to your next interview so that when this question comes up you are fully prepared:
Let’s start with what you should avoid:
- Never state that you have no weaknesses – you aren’t superhuman!
- Avoid trying to disguise a strength as a weakness. “Perfectionist”
- Don’t mention a weakness without talking about how you have tried to overcome it.
- Try not to copy examples you’ve read online word for word. Be personal!
- Don’t be scared to open up. If you work long enough with someone they are bound to find out your weakness anyway!
Here are some suggestions to try next time:
- Be honest! The interviewer has seen your CV and transcript already so they know your grades and they are learning more and more about you as the interview goes on.
- Spend some time actually thinking about yourself – what you are good at and what you can improve in. Self-introspection can only benefit you!
- Turn your answer into a good story. Talk about how you identified this weakness, what challenges you faced when trying to overcome it, and in what ways you are noticing yourself improve.
- Relax! Everybody has imperfections. The interviewer is not trying to just single out your bad qualities. They just want to see you have what it takes to improve yourself and the environment you are in.