Nobody likes talking about their flaws and weaknesses, especially during a job interview. It feels like you’re helping your interviewer find all the reasons NOT to hire you. Sometimes, we may even end up over-doing it and listing every single flaw you think you have. Or you might try to convince the interviewer that you have no significant flaws they need to worry about.
But the truth is that we all have weaknesses, and knowing what they are can be very helpful when it comes to how you work. It’s also a good way to showcase what you’re actually good at during an interview, and how you work to improve yourself.
“What is your weakness” is actually a pretty common interview question. So when you’re hit with that daunting questions about your weaknesses, here are some tips on how you can answer it.
Use skills not essential to the job
One way you can go about this question is to talk about the weaknesses you have that are not essential to the job. You need to analyze the job description carefully to identify what key skills the company is looking for. Then think about the weaknesses you have that are not important to be successful in that job. But remember, you have to be honest.
If you are applying for a job as a writer, for example, it can be safe to mention that you are not too good at presentations or verbal communication. Just highlight the fact that your strength is in written communication and that's how you best express yourself.
Mention the skills that you’ve worked on or improved
The most common way to answer the question about weakness is to talk about the weaknesses that you improved during your previous job or the ones that you are currently working on. Give concrete examples and don’t just say that you’re "working to" improve your verbal communication skills. Tell them HOW you are doing it. Are you taking seminars, undergoing coaching, do you go out of your way to talk to strangers more, etc.
Be careful when you choose what weakness to highlight
You will most likely only need to talk about one weakness. Unless your interviewer digs for more, just focus on one. A good idea is to “plan” what weakness you will talk about before your interview even happens. As mentioned earlier, the best thing to do is to focus on weaknesses that are non-essential to the job.
Before your interview, read the description to identify the main skills they are looking for. Decide beforehand what weakness you will highlight that will not affect your performance for that job. Be sure to do this with each job, since the skills needed might vary, even if the job title is the same. While not all interviewers ask about weaknesses, it’s best to prepare. And this question is one that you definitely need to prepare for.
Always be honest
Believe it or not, it can be easy to tell when you’re not being honest. All it takes is a few follow-up questions and your interviewer will be able to deduce whether you were telling the truth. Keep things safe and just be honest. The interview process is there not just for the company to know whether you fit in, but it’s for YOU to know if you will be able to get the job done. Honesty is the best way to find out. Of all the interview questions available, this is the ONE question you don’t want to come off as dishonest.
Emphasize your action plan
Talk about your weakness, but it’s more important to talk about how you got passed it, or how you are planning to get passed it if it. This is helpful when your weakness is a hard skill that can be learned through practice, study, training, or seminars. You can start your answer by “the skill I am working on is _____, since it has been a struggle for me in the past.”
Share your strengths as well
Just because the question is about weakness doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what you’re good at. If you truly worked on a weakness, you may have even been able to turn it into a strength. Highlight that! As much as you prepare how to answer what your weaknesses are, you should also prepare how to answer the question, “what is your greatest strength
- I don’t like missing deadlines so I finish tasks immediately. This means that I get things done way ahead of schedule, but sometimes I realize I end up rushing through tasks. I learned how to slow down from my last job and how to go over details and give more attention to projects
- I have trouble meeting deadlines because I have a tendency to check my work too much. But I’ve come up with a system to get things done correctly the first time so I don’t have to overcheck. I also time myself when working so I don’t get carried away with one task or project
- I tend to micro-manage my team. I make it a point to let them know beforehand, so they can let me know when I start fixating on things I shouldn’t. It helps me catch myself when I micro-manage, and I tell myself to take a step back.
- Numbers have never been my strength. Luckily, as a writer, I can focus on my writing instead. But I’ve learned how to use analytics tools for websites and apps - which are the closest to “numbers” I get as a writer. I’ve taught myself how to handle those numbers and even attended a seminar in the past to learn more about it.
- I used to leave work until the last minute, but the demands of my last job left me no choice but to learn to schedule my time better or else I would not be able to work effectively. Now I have a great sense of time and get things done on schedule.
Ideas to get you going
Stuck on what kind of weaknesses there are? Here are a few to help get those gears going. Again, remember to pick the ones that TRUELY apply to you.
- Math, numbers, finances
- Creative writing
- Specific programs/software
- Task delegation/command skills
- Spontaneity (you don’t like things that happen without planning or scheduling)
- Taking too many risks/not taking any risks
- Spending too much time on tasks or projects
- Perfectionism (beware though, this is a favorite of basically everyone)
- Interpersonal skills/conversing with others/conversing with strangers
- Emotional (or too emotionally expressive)
- Too sensitive
- Too detail-oriented
- Multitasking (yes, this is a weakness as it can also be a strength)
- Procrastination (this can be risky to use. Ensure that you are still able to meet deadlines and that you focus on HOW you get through your procrastinating ways)
- Working too long (this can show that you don’t manage your time wisely or do not work effectively. Talk about how you learned to better manage your time)
- Poor time management
- Tend to get overwhelmed/stressed easily
With a little bit of practice and self-reflection, you will be able to find out what your weaknesses are and formulate an action plan to strengthen it. Take the time to practice your answers for other common interview questions as well, to get you well on the way to getting that YES!