Three Good Ways to Answer the “What’s Your Weakness?” Question

It’s the most dreaded question in any job interview. “What’s your greatest weakness?”

Everyone fears it, and no one knows how to answer it. Plenty of us have tried to pass off canned answers like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or the always popular “I’m a bit of a workaholic.” If you haven’t found out already, these just don’t work.

Chances are your interviewer has heard them before. So she’ll probably turn around and say, “Well, that sounds like a strength to me. Can you give me another weakness?” And then you’re back where you started from.

So, what is the best way to respond to this question? The key is to understand why hiring managers ask it in the first place. More than anything, they want to see how you’ll respond how well you maintain your composure under pressure.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to tackle the dreaded “what’s your weakness?” question.

Tip #1: Only admit to a minor weakness 

Cop to a small weakness — but one that could also suggest an upside. Instead of trying to pass off a blatant strength as a weakness (e.g., the perfectionist line), go ahead and confess a small weakness that more subtly hints at a positive flipside.

Admit, for example, that you are impatient. That’s a weakness, yes, but it also indicates that you’re high-performing (i.e., not lazy).

An even better way to present that weakness: “I work at a fast rate and find that I need to be more patient with those who don’t.”

Tip #2: Admit a weakness that can be fixed

With this tip, we take that advice a step further. After acknowledging a weakness, explain to the hiring manager what you’re doing to address it.

Let’s use the “impatient” example again here. If you admit that as a weakness, follow up by adding that you’re working on communicating expectations with your associates to help make sure everyone is on the same page. Under the right circumstances, this  strategy can really pay off. Because it not only shows the employer that you’re actively trying to improve, it also shows that you take initiative and have leadership skills.  

Tip #3: If you do confess a real weakness, make sure it’s not a red flag

You don’t want to be that candidate who blurts out potentially damaging information by revealing a real, serious weakness. We all have our flaws, but we don’t need to shout them from the rooftops (especially in a job interview)!

The key is not to disclose anything that can make you seem like a problem worker. Saying things like, “I’m not a team player” or “I’m typically late” will set off serious alarms in the mind of the interviewer. Maybe those are obvious. But what if you say essentially the same thing in less direct words?

If you’re frequently late, for example, or you procrastinate, you might dress it up by saying, “I need to work on my time management.” Sure, that sounds a little better than words like “lazy” and “procrastinator”, but your interviewer’s going to reach the same conclusion regardless.

So if you do decide to disclose a real weakness, choose one that is irrelevant to the position you’re up for (e.g., if you’re working with numbers all day, you could say that you’re not a fantastic writer).

Coming up with one answer is hard enough, but I recommend jotting down four. Why? Because I’ve often heard the “what’s your greatest weakness” question come in the form of “tell me your top three greatest weaknesses.” Scary, but true!

Prepare for the worst-case scenario, and hope for the best. And do not forget: practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your answers out loud so you can breeze right through the trickiest question without breaking a sweat.

Expert advice brought to you by The Résumé Girl

 

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