A job interview is about selling yourself to the hiring manager, so being asked about your weaknesses is difficult. You don’t want to say the wrong thing, but you also don’t want to give a vague answer and lose credibility.
Positively framing your weaknesses can be challenging, but when you effectively prepare and plan ahead, you can quickly stand apart from other job candidates.
Why Do Employers Ask About Your Weaknesses?
Employers ask candidates about their weaknesses to assess their self-awareness, honesty, and drive to improve. They also likely want to see that you are actively working on your shortcomings and what you plan to do to keep getting better. This question is a fantastic opportunity to show their willingness to learn and change and prove that you are the best fit for the job.
How to Answer ‘What Are Your Weaknesses?’
Below are some examples and suggestions from our recruitment consultants on how to best approach this question during your job interview.
Ruth Beth-Jackson, Principal Consultant:
When answering this question, always remember that the client doesn’t actually want to know a ‘weakness’. Your ‘weakness’ should never truly be a weakness, as you always want to leave the interviewer thinking that you are someone they could work with, not that you are unable to change.
Your weakness should actually be deemed as a positive, such as being unable to delegate tasks. This isn’t the worst weakness, as it shows that you prefer to work solely on things to make sure they get done.
However, you must never leave this question by merely stating your weakness. You should always end with how you are improving said weakness:
“My weakness is that I find it quite difficult to delegate. However, this is something I am working on as I see the benefits in delegating. Even though I want to make sure it is finished, if a colleague is helping this could be more efficient…”
A good follow-up to a weakness is also something literal, such as stating that you are taking a course or actively working on improving your weakness.
I would say the key is, to be honest, but not too honest. You want to highlight something you have noticed that you can improve on in your work, but something that isn’t detrimental to the core of how you perform your job.
What the interviewer is really looking to find out is how you can reflect on the weakness and improve upon it. Self-reflection is important in any job as nobody starts a role and is perfect at it. Recognising that you always have room for improvement and are constantly looking to better yourself within the role will be what the interviewer wants to see.
I’d say that it’s important to give the interviewer a weakness, but not one that matches the criteria in the job description of the role you’re applying for. For example, if you’re going for an accountancy role and you say that your weakness is crunching numbers, you might as well kiss the job goodbye!
A great answer would highlight a minor weakness that you’re aware of, are actively working on, and would want to improve on while working with the employer, such as:
“My biggest weakness would probably be that I am not yet very confident at speaking in front of large groups. However, I do want to get better at it. If there were any opportunities in this role where I could talk to larger groups of people or help with presentations, then I would definitely like to take on this challenge.”
A weakness doesn’t have to make you look weak! You can always place a positive spin on a situation. Highlighting areas of improvement actually show strength in your ability to know where you need to grow, that you are not oblivious to the fact, and you are willing to work on this to reach an end goal.
This is my recommendation:
- Pick a topic area.
- Acknowledge what you need to improve on.
- Explain what you have done so far to improve in this area and how this has impacted your day to day work so far.
- Highlight what you intend to do in the future to further improve in this area.
Crafting Your Response
Once you’ve established your weakness, it’s time to tailor a response to put it in the most positive light. But how do you do that? Here are three suggestions:
- Emphasise the positive aspects, avoiding negative words such as failure.
- Talk about how your weakness has been transformed into a strength.
- Show how you recognise where you need to improve and acknowledge what steps you need to take to better yourself.
There are several ways to show that you are working on your weaknesses that will make you stand out to potential employers:
- Take a class or seek training.
- Discover tools, such as apps or computer programmes, to track your time, schedule breaks, or collaborate more smoothly.
- Find a mentor to work with.
- Volunteer for charity to build up a new skill.
- Join professional groups or industry associations.
The trick to talking about your weaknesses is being genuine and remaining positive. This question provides you with a great opportunity to show potential employers that you are dedicated to improving yourself and are motivated to work hard. Don’t spend a lot of time covering your weakness, though – get to the positive bit!
Jane joined Oyster Partnership in November 2017 as a receptionist. She started showing her artistic flair and enthusiasm for all things marketing soon after joining the business. Since then she has worked hard and built her way up from being a receptionist to running the marketing department at Oyster Partnership.
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