You know it will be asked, yet if you are like the vast majority of job seekers, the chances are that you will still be slightly flummoxed when a potential new employer asks you at interview “What are your weaknesses?” So, how should you answer this question?
It is important to remember that the key to achieving interview success is to be both honest and strategic in your responses. Whilst tempting to confidently reply with “I don’t have any”, this will not impress your interviewer. If anything, it will likely irritate them.
Here are a few tips on how to answer this question:
1. Be honest: Identify a genuine weakness that you have, but make sure it is not something that is critical to the job you are being interviewed for. Saying you have sometimes struggled to meet your sales targets when applying for a business development role will do you no favours. Unless you can demonstrate the actions you have taken to address this. Cue: point 2.
2. Show how you have worked to improve: Highlighting a weakness is a positive sign of humility. It shows your employer that you are self-aware and that it makes you a more valuable proposition. Employers want to know what they’re getting, warts ‘n all. Be confident in sharing a weakness but be sure to talk through the steps you have taken to work on it and how you have grown as a result.
3. Emphasise your strengths: Stay focused on the fact that this is an interview, and your job is still to ‘sell’ yourself as the right person for the job. Sharing a weakness is all very well but be sure to highlight how your weakness is balanced by one of your strengths. Using the sales role as an example, explaining that you used to miss some of your targets and the way that you addressed this which in turn boosted your performance has a good mix of the negative and the positive. Build on this even further by saying that one of your biggest strengths is being a great team player. So, you used your previous experience of struggling to hit your numbers to great effect in sharing best practice and supporting the training and development of some of your colleagues.
4. Use a positive spin: There are some strengths that can also be weaknesses, and the way in which you frame it will ensure that you come across in the best way possible. Take attention to detail or perfectionism as a case in point. Some might argue that these traits can sometimes slow things down or become a distraction, but by saying that this approach to your work has consistently delivered high-quality work and results for your team, the negative is very quickly transformed into a positive.
5. Finally, be clear: Nobody is perfect, and no one has every single skill and trait that is listed on a job description. The important thing for you to do is identify those that you don’t have or can improve and share with the interviewer the steps you might take to either acquire or develop the skills that are most important to the employer.
The interview process involves a ‘buyer’ (the employer) and a ‘seller’ (the candidate). Buyers will use the interview to ask a series of questions to help them decide which applicant is best suited for the vacancy at hand. Sellers are challenged with promoting the added benefits they will bring to the employer above all other applicants.
Critical to interview successes is preparation. And we can help make you both interview-ready and job-ready.