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What are your weaknesses?

Why 1 interview question is like the Killer Rabbit in Monty Python.

You are in an interview, it is going really well. You feel a connection between yourself and the interviewer.  You think you have nailed this interview.

And than, the question you hoped wasn’t going to be asked:

“what are your weaknesses?”

It’s seemingly innocent but has the potential to be deadly.

We all try our best to show our best selves in an interview, we twist around, make our strengths shine and our weaknesses almost non-existing.  In the process we forget to be true to ourselves and get “our message” across.  A message that tells a true story to a future employer about our real strengths and weaknesses and how we have managed to overcome them in the past.  A true story about our drivers and motivators and what makes us “tick”.

There are numerous reasons why we try to leave out our authenticity in an interview. The main reason is, we want to be liked.  And the ultimate validation of this, it is when we get the job.

The truth is, everyone has weaknesses.  This question is almost guaranteed to be asked and answering it wrong can stuff up the whole interview. With a little preparation and planning you can answer this question sincerely and avoid it becoming a threat to the success of the interview.

Here are the top 5 mistakes I have personally seen interviewees do when asked about their weaknesses:

  • The classic technique to take a strength and make it into a weakness. Example, I’m a work-o-holic, a perfectionist or very organized.
  • Mentioning personal weaknesses.
  • Mentioning a weakness that is an essential skill.
  • Saying “I have no real weaknesses”
  • Mentioning a weakness that is not related to the job,  “I have no IT development experience” and you are interviewing for an accounting job.

There is no “right” answer to this question but using any of the above is almost certain to be a dead trap.

The reason this question is asked almost every time, is because it shows the level of self awareness the interviewee has.

Before you start writing down some of your weaknesses, ask yourself this: “what would I look for if I would ask that question”.  Come up with at least 3 reasons why and keep these in mind when writing your examples.

Ask people that have worked with you, what they believe your weaknesses are.

Once you have them.  It’s time to articulate them.

1st The best way is to describe, in which capacity you identified this to be one of your weaknesses.

2nd What the challenge was you faced

3rd How you overcame the weakness and how you are still in the process of improving it.

Everyone knows change takes time, so don’t worry. 

See it in action: Weakness could be delegation. When I worked at Soapbar Technologies I managed a team of 15 people. I have the tendency to check everything to make sure it is perfect. I was working 14-16 hours a day to do so. We just signed a bigger project and I learned that I had to change the way I was working. I looked at my team and selected two of them to be the team leaders to help me with the workload. I also took a course on delegation as I struggled to let go at first. It is still something I am working on, as it doesn’t come natural to me. But now I do understand the value of delegation, not only for me but also how it empowers my team. [/plain] I saw so many candidates, on every level, struggling with this question.  Every hiring manager realises that people aren’t perfect and make mistakes.  They are looking how self aware you are and for your ability to change or improve.

If you need help, you might consider working with me to help you create your personal brand that attracts the right jobs, promotion and career.


Reinvent Your Career would like to thank New Horizon Coaching where this article first appeared.

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