Every time I deliver a interview skills workshop, inevitably someone asks, "how can I answer the weakness question?". If I charged a £1 every time this horror question comes up in my training sessions, I would be a retired millionaire sailing in the South of France. Instead, here I am blogging about how best to answer what I think is a dreaded interview question.
Firstly, it is important to try and understand what the employer is looking for. They want to see:
- How well you respond to pressure. Can you provide a thoughtful, considered answer without crumbling? Are you able to maintain your composure?
- Honesty and integrity. All of us have ‘weak spots’ but a strong candidate will take ownership of their weaknesses, showing both insight and self awareness.
- Evidence of personal growth. Being able to identify your weaknesses and take corrective action.
Secondly, in answering the weakness question, it is important to be honest! Try to find something that you've struggled with in the past, but are now trying to overcome. You don’t want to be too candid and start checking off weaknesses like a shopping list, so it’s best to identify one particular area and share your ‘journey’ through a brief narrative. For example:
“I’m not the most confident public speaker and recently a number of my modules have involved course work requiring individual and group presentations. I have also been researching the placements application process and noticed that many employers expect candidates to deliver a short presentation as part of the selection process. I therefore decided to take practical steps to overcome this weakness. I am also aware that being able to present with confidence is a valuable skill and one that I will need to use in my placement and future career. My first step was to meet with my Careers Adviser, who signposted me to training workshops. I also undertook online research and identified tips such as using memory cards to help my confidence. Finally, I delivered two mock-presentations and asked for feedback from the careers team, which not only helped me improve and also pointed out areas of development. As a result of this, my presentations are much improved and I recently took lead in delivering a group presentation where I spoke for 15 minutes. I personally received excellent feedback and our group presentation was chosen as a winner by the judging employer"
Finally don't talk yourself out the job, therefore make sure you avoid the following mistakes:
- Don't play the perfectionist card, Warwick Careers summarise why!
- Don't for example say 'chocolate' and expect the recruiter to have a funny bone.
- Don't refuse to answer the question or say, "um, I don't have any weaknesses".
- Don't reveal a weakness that raises a red flag which may jeorperdise your ability to do the job.