In this article, I want to teach you 3 steps on how to prepare for an answer to the interview question, “What is your weakness?” These steps will enable you to not only make it to the next round of interviews, but also ideally land a job offer.
How not to answer the question
Before we go in depth into what a good weakness is, we first need to understand what a good weakness is not. There are 2 things that are not good weaknesses: (i) a personality trait, and (ii) a strength in disguise.
So firstly, your weaknesses should not be your personality traits. In the job interview world, the weakness should be something that can be improved. Weaknesses are things that can be improved on, fixed or corrected. Your personality traits, on the other hand, are the natural inherent traits within you that really nobody can fix unless you fix or change them yourself. So when you say something like, ‘My weakness is I don’t have patience’, that tells your employer that they’re going to have an employee who’s impatient pretty much all the time. It’s something that anybody can fix or change. It is just part of who you are. That’s why using a personality trait as a weakness is not a good idea.
Secondly, your weakness should not be a strength in disguise. A lot of people try to get away by saying things like, ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’, when they’re telling their weaknesses. Actually for recruiters and employment managers, when you use this answer, your intention is very transparent and clear, and it’s better not to use this kind of an answer.
How to answer the question
Now that we know how not to answer the question, let’s talk about what a good weakness is.
A good weakness is an issue or concern that occurs in a certain context that you have improved and continue to improve on.
So for example, instead of saying, ‘I’m impatient’, you can say, ‘In situations where there’s a deadline to be met, I tend to want things to be done quickly and efficiently. In such situations, I usually finish my tasks quickly, and update myself on the status of my co-workers’ duties consistently, which at times makes me appear impatient in front of others.’
By answering the question in this way, you are describing the context where the weakness occurs. And that’s what you want to do. You want to make sure that it’s within a specific context or situation, so that it doesn’t appear like you do it on a consistent basis. After that, you are also explaining what you do or are doing to improve on this weakness. So you would say, ‘As a result, I have learned to be cognizant of this fact, and no longer try to constantly update myself on what my co-workers are up to as often. Instead, I’ve implemented weekly meetings where everyone comes to the table with their updates. This has led to greater efficiency for everyone involved.’
How to figure out your weaknesses
The first thing to do to figure out your weaknesses is to brainstorm and make a list of your past and current concerns that you have about yourself. This will be your private list that nobody needs to see. Literally take a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, and start writing things that you feel are areas for improvement within yourself.
Once you’re done with your list, highlight the weaknesses that tend to occur only in a certain context or situation. Generally this is going to be a majority of the weaknesses that you list out, but think of the ones that can be applied in a professional setting. It doesn’t have to be something that happens all the time, but when a situation comes up at work, you tend to behave in a certain way.
After that, pick one current and past weakness, and develop individual stories for each. Think of the situation that brings forth each of the chosen weaknesses, and think how you’ll frame it to develop a story around it.
If you apply these tips, you’ll be able to go through your next job interview smoothly.