Interview question: What’s your biggest weakness?

     
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It’s an old classic and a question that seems to have had plenty of interviewees struggling, but should this question cause so much worry? Well, today we’re going to have a look at the different types of answers and offer some useful tips to help you with this tricky interview question!

Describe a weakness that’s a positive

This is a popular strategy and there are certainly no shortages of advice articles that propose this type of answer.

Below we’ve listed some of the more common examples:

  • “I’ve often been told I’m a bit of a perfectionist”
  • “Sometimes, I put too much of myself into my work and I struggle to get the right work-life balance.”
  • “I like responsibility so I’ve a tendency to take on a little bit more than I can manage but I’ve since learned to delegate.”
  • “I find it difficult to sit and do nothing so have set myself some self-development goals”

In theory this appears to be a sound approach and there’s no doubt that in some circumstances it works.

The problem with this approach is that often recruiters and interviewers have heard it all before. Giving an example that is obviously a positive in the workplace is easy to see through and may even be off putting to an interviewer. Nobody is perfect and an interviewer could even see this as arrogant. So what’s the alternative?

Be honest, describe a true weakness and show how you have overcome it

The first thing you’ll need to do is to think of a weakness to use as your example. Try to pick something that isn’t too serious or too integral to the role that you are going for. For example, “in the past I have struggled a little with presentations to large groups.”

When describing your weakness in the interview, try not to emphasise it. The key is to show that you have struggled a little with this aspect in the past. This ensures that the interviewer doesn’t worry too much about how it will affect you in the role.

The next stage is to show how you have overcome this. Did you complete a training course? Did you practice to overcome the problem? Did you ask for advice from a colleague or get support from your line manager?

Once you have explained how you dealt with your weakness, the next part of the process is to incorporate a success story. For example, “recently in my current role, I gave a presentation to the regional managers. Due to the practice I’ve been doing, it went really well and I got some great feedback.

Ideally if you follow these 3 steps you should have an example of a weakness that you struggled with a little, an explanation of how you overcame the problem and a success story, proving that you have made progress with your weakness.

Why showing a weakness isn’t a bad thing

Pinpointing a weakness in an interview can help to show to an employer that you are self-aware. It shows that you are able to look at yourself objectively, spot a training need and resolve that need with training, practice, or by seeking advice. This helps to show your commitment to personal development. Importantly for an employer this shows that you will continue to grow. We’re all human, and being able to spot our own weaknesses can be the key to developing strengths.

Career Development Toolkit for Higher Education Professionals

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