So your fabulous CV got you shortlisted, you have your first interview for a brand new position, and it’s going great. The hiring manager is impressed with your answers to their questions, you’re hitting it off and things are going smoothly. Then, halfway through the interview, you hear the dreaded question: “What is your greatest weakness?” What do you say? Potential employers are not doing this to catch you off guard. They probably want to become more familiar with you personally, and identify any areas of improvement, so that as colleagues moving forward in this organisation together, you can continue to grow and improve.
Respond to the ‘weakness’ question
You want to be honest in your answer to the question, but you should avoid giving the impression that you aren’t interested in improving your skills or addressing your weaknesses. The best way to approach this is to talk about an area of improvement that is an area of strength that you would like to grow in. For example, if you are asked what your weakness is and you say you are a perfectionist, the hiring manager may think you are saying that you are far too critical of yourself and you are not a good team player. If you are a perfectionist, and you wish to grow as a perfectionist, you would say that you’re very meticulous with your work, and you want everything to be just right. But you realise that you should be careful not to let this perfectionism hold others back from contributing to the team.
Be honest, but don’t be afraid to show your strength
For example, if you are asked what your weakness is and you are a strong team player, you may want to say that you are a team player who sometimes needs to step back and let others take over. You want to show that you are a strong, confident and capable person, but that you also have a desire to improve your skills even further. This will come across in your answer and it will make you even more appealing to the hiring manager.
Show how you’re working to improve your weakness
If you are an avid reader and learner, you can use that as an example of how you are working to improve your weakness. You can say that you are an avid reader and learner who wants to continue to grow and learn new skills and new things. For example, let’s say you are applying for a position as a marketing manager for a new product. You may want to mention that you read a lot about marketing and product management and that you want to learn as much as you can about the product. This way, the hiring manager will know that even though you may not have a ton of experience with the product, you are not afraid to learn and grow by researching and reading information to close your skills and knowledge gaps.
Give an example of a time when you showed strength in this area
If you are not sure what to say when asked about your weaknesses, try giving an example. Use the example to demonstrate how you are trying to improve in this area. Let’s say you are a project manager and you get asked what your weakness is. You may say that you tend to get a little tunnel vision when you are working on a project and that you can sometimes forget to take a break. When you dig into this example, you can say that you want to be sure to take more breaks, maybe stand up and walk around, or take more time off from work to rest and recharge. In this way, you can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re able to reflect honestly and find practical solutions to problems.
The hiring manager may be trying to get to know you better, and identify any areas of weakness that may affect your ability to excel in the new job. The best way to answer this question is to be honest and open, but not so open as to come off as weak or vulnerable.
You want to try to show that you are both aware of your weaknesses and working to improve them. You also want to show that you are a confident, capable person who is committed to learning and growing. This will make you more appealing when the job does come along.