What Are Your Weaknesses?

“What are your weaknesses?”

This particular interview question has come up several times in conversations this week. It’s certainly not a new question. Since it seems to be a popular topic, I figured I’d take a stab at sharing my views on how to approach it with an answer.

When companies ask this question what they often hear is how candidates are perfectionists, workaholics, quick to say yes to what is asked of them, etc. In a nutshell, candidates are determined to share weaknesses that they think will also come through as a positive to an employer. I should add they claim the above weaknesses even when they aren’t necessarily true for them. The thing is, that strategy is so overused it does more to stimulate a gag reflex than it does to bring an employer peace of mind. When candidates don’t give me genuine answers I’m torn between believing they don’t care to give me a real answer or they truly have no knowledge of where they need development.

My advice for tackling this question is to be honest. Employers want to know you have some grasp of your shortcomings. Recognition is key to overcoming them. We all have room to grow. We all have things we are more or less suited for. Pretending otherwise is silly. Acknowledge them and couple that acknowledgment with a plan to address them. For example, if your weakness is that you lack extensive experience in Microsoft applications, say so. Couple it immediately with ways you’ve researched for you to learn them either through your next employer or on your own time.

Now, honesty does not mean giving a 20 minute account of all you lack. Sharing your faults to the point you are punching an employer between the eyes with them will get you nowhere. Be succinct. State the weakness in basic terms and dedicate more time to sharing how you’ve overcome that weakness or how you plan to in the future.

I can imagine some of you thinking, “but what if I share a weakness and it ends up costing me the job?” Have you considered that may be a good thing? Interviews shouldn’t be about getting a company to make you an offer regardless of your fit for the position. Garth Brooks says, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” On a similar note, sometimes the best gift a potential employer can give you is a rejection letter.

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