‘So, what’s your biggest weakness?’
It is a dreaded question that every candidate should expect. There’s a reason your potential employers are asking you this, and it’s not just so they can cover any sharp corners around the office in soft padding if your reply is ‘I’m super clumsy’. It’s less about the answer itself, and more about how you answer. It’s not an exercise in narcissism nor should it be a self shaming monologue.
NO NO ANSWER #1:
‘Actually, I don’t really have any flaws.’
This response is both obviously utter nonsense, and also screams ‘potential workplace sociopath’. No one’s perfect and everyone sitting in that interview knows it. So you’re either being a bit of an arrogant cheese ball, or you genuinely have an ego that could be seen from space. Neither of those options are overly appealing.
NO NO ANSWER #2:
‘I guess you could say I’m a real perfectionist? And that I’m perhaps too dedicated to my job? I just love working super hard and being great at my career more than most people?’
Very few interviewers will take this blatant attempt to backdoor brag at face value, and they’ll be more inclined to respond by suddenly shining a bright light in your eyes, interrogation room style, and shouting, ‘WHAT ARE YOU HIDING, DAMN IT?’ in a frenzied manner (well, hopefully not, but you get the point).
NO NO ANSWER #3:
It should be blatantly obvious why this answer is a NO NO, so I won’t explain.
So what makes for a suitable response to this question in a job interview?
HERE’S THE GREAT ANSWER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!
Your interviewer really wants to know that a) you have the ability to assess yourself honestly and b) you're proactive at working on turning potential workplace weaknesses into strengths. Our tip? Before the interview, decide on something you know you've had to work at (we recommend looking at the position description and not choosing one of the specific traits your potential new company has indicated is essential for success) and explain what you've done to improve this quality.
For instance, someone being interviewed for an accounting role would avoid saying, "I'm pretty bad with numbers" (side note: if that's the case, hey, don't apply for accounting jobs that will make you miserable!) but might offer up, "Well, I used to have some issues in the past with successfully prioritising work when things got particularly hectic, so I've done a short online course on time management training and I began using a cloud application to keep track of tasks and no longer find it stressful having a great overview of what's going on and needs to be done."
Basically, choose to use this moment in an interview to highlight a time you've made the effort to recognise something you could be better at, and - most importantly - done something proactive to handle it. Voila! You've revealed yourself to be honest, practical, and constantly self-improving!
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