We have all gotten the dreaded interview question: “What is your greatest weakness?” It always seems like such a trick pitch. After all, who wants to talk about weaknesses when you’re aiming to impress in an interview? But this is a powerful question that you don’t have to field with gimmicky answers about your perfectionism or workaholic nature. Shaping your answer gives you a great opportunity to exhibit self-awareness and to tout your professional growth.
This is a common interview question, so having a clear, concise answer is a must. Follow these five steps to knock this career curveball out of the park.
1. Demystify the interview situation.
Interviews are conversations between equal parties both angling to see if a particular arrangement might benefit them. It’s in the best interest of both for the conversation to be open, honest and sincere. Approach this question in that spirit. You have power in this conversation, and your opinion of the organization, staff and leadership you observe on the hiring side matters as much as how they perceive you. It’s a two-way evaluation.
2. Reflect honestly about where you struggle professionally.
Don’t softball this question; welcome the opportunity for examination. Look at past performance appraisals and think about the feedback that you’ve heard from previous managers. Be honest with yourself about your professional areas of challenge. Own them. Self-awareness is a soft skill, and those are increasingly in demand in the workplace.
3. Consider how you’ve addressed your issues.
Perhaps you’ve attended a training course or worked with a mentor. Mention the steps you’ve taken. Identifying and addressing an area of challenge demonstrates growth and maturity.
4. Tie in a strength.
Our strengths help us navigate our weaknesses, so it’s a fine strategy to weave one into your answer. Here’s an example: “I tend to be a bit disorganized. My role has always been a creative one, and while I have taken a class to learn better organizational skills, this does not come naturally to me. Nevertheless, I have a solid sense of priorities and a strong work ethic. While I plan to continue working to become more strategically organized, I can say from experience that this area of challenge for me will never keep me from submitted quality work on time.”
5. Write out your response and rehearse.
Because this question is a bit complex, write out your answer. This will help you think it through more fully. Then practice with someone whose professional opinion you trust.
When you are in the interview room, sometimes nervousness can take over and make you feel less in control than you’d like to be. The way to manage this is by training your mind and body. It will bolster your confidence when you realize that you can tackle any interview question in spite of any pressure you may initially feel.
And don’t forget to make researching the company part of your preparation! It's one more way to stay cool, in control and ready to impress.