How to Answer the Interview Question: What are your Weaknesses?
When it comes to interview questions, the famous “What are your strengths?” is an easy one. It’s a call for you to talk about all the skills and experiences that makes you an excellent match for the role. The difficulty comes when you’re asked about weaknesses in an interview because it is one of the trickiest interview questions to answer. This question is challenging and you don’t want to answer in a way that comes off as dishonest or disqualifying.
“Tell me about your weaknesses,” confuses so many job interviewees, and it’s no wonder because how can one tell an interviewer about your shortcomings without sounding like you’d be hopeless on the job?
Weaknesses are tricky to speak about, so you would like to take caution when sharing yours. You don’t want to kick yourself out of the competition for the role because the interviewer thinks you are not qualified. You would want your answer to be honest and as positive as possible.
There are ways to reply effectively and methods you’ll use to best answer the question.
It’s tricky, but it can be done.
How to approach the ‘what are your weaknesses’ question
As much as you would like to talk about your weaknesses honestly during an interview, do it in such a way that helps you to gain instead of losing out on the role. Keep in mind that what interviewers really want to know is how you handle adversity on the job because they can’t get a complete picture of who you really are as a candidate when you are only talking about your strengths.
How you respond also will help the interviewer know how well you understand yourself, as well as if you would be a good match for the role. It also shows the interviewer that you simply know that no one is ideal and that you’re willing to figure out how to improve your skills and excel.
To start, go through the limitations that have challenged you at work. It is good to make an inventory of your known shortcomings, and a way to collect this information is from past performance evaluations and notes from supervisors about areas for improvement.
You also want to make sure you research the employer and the open position. Thoroughly review the job description before the interview so you don’t say something as a weakness that’s crucial to the role. Read the job posting thoroughly so you know what attributes and abilities are essential to the performance of the job.
Here’s a little secret. It’s about how you answer, not what you answer and all that the interviewer is looking for are these three qualities:
- Self-awareness: An ideal candidate won’t deny that they do not have real weaknesses. But the weakness they choose won’t interfere with the duties of the role in question. Some candidates will hear the “what are your weaknesses” question and go numb or they panic and deny that they don’t have any. Denial is one of the worst mistakes you’ll ever make.
- Honesty: The second worst mistake is lying. An ideal candidate won’t lie about their weaknesses. Choose a true weakness and mention the steps you’re taking to deal with it and you should not disguise a strength as a weakness because for a very long time we were all trained to answer in this manner. Nowadays interviewers know that it’s a way of avoiding the question and they’ll wonder what you’re hiding.
- Self-improvement: Another important aspect of your “what are your weaknesses” answer is showing ways you have improved on yourself. You should include details about the steps you’re taking to correct the weakness you mentioned.
Remember you are not confessing your sins. So, don’t be weird, too candid, don’t over-confess, and don’t mention how you miss work because you can’t get out of bed.
What to avoid when giving your answer
If you answer this question with an enthusiastic denial, the interviewer will probably write you off as someone without self-awareness or someone who is overconfident or unable to learn from their mistakes because no one’s perfect.
So here are some ways the interviewer might ask the “what are your weaknesses” question:
- What is your weakness?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What are some of your weaknesses?
- What are your weakest areas?
- What are your weakest skills?
- What do you concede to be your weaknesses?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What would your current supervisor say is your weakest area?
- Tell me about a time you failed.
- Describe a difficult work situation and what you probably did to beat it. Many of the different variations of this question allow you to answer with a display of strength, so try not to waste the opportunity to shine.
List of Weaknesses
There are different categories of weaknesses that you simply choose from when answering interview questions on your shortcomings.
However, do not choose a weakness at random. Instead, confirm if the ones you decide on are not critical to the role. Here is a list of common professional skills you can mention when answering questions on your weaknesses during an interview:
- Advanced mathematics
- Creative writing: You can say you do not have the mental capacity to be creative as you are analytical or logical in nature.
- Financial literacy: You should talk about the challenges you face due to your inability to grasp simple financial terms.
- Foreign languages (or one particular foreign language): You can talk about how you find it difficult learning new languages and how you make use or will make use of language apps to help you overcome this difficulty.
- A particular software package you’ve tried understanding but can’t seem to really know how to make use of.
- Spelling: If spelling new words are not your thing, you can make mention it as a weakness.
- Delegating tasks: You make find it difficult to delegate tasks because you are a perfectionist and you don’t trust people with certain responsibilities.
- Humour: For a role that doesn’t require you to be funny, you may say you lack a sense of humor.
- Spontaneity: If you work better when prepared, you can tell the interviewer you don’t like surprises as you want to be duly informed about any task beforehand.
- Organization: You can say you like working in an organized environment because you are can be easily distracted.
- Patience: If you lack the ability to be patient, make sure it’s not an essential skill for the job you are interviewing.
- Taking too many risks
- Being too honest
- Covering for colleagues
- Expecting too much from co-workers
- Expressing an excessive amount of frustration with underperforming staff or colleagues
- Presenting to large groups
- Public speaking
- Being too critical of other people’s work
- Too easily internalizing the problems of clients
- Being too sensitive
- Leaving projects unfinished
- Providing too much detail in reports
- Shifting from one project to another is known as multitasking
- Taking credit for group projects
- Taking on too many projects at once
- Taking on too much responsibility
- Being too detail-oriented
- Being too much of a perfectionist
- Excessive procrastination (as long as you continue to meet all of your deadlines)
- Being too helpful to others
- Working too many hours
- Inexperience with some software or a non-essential skill
- Tendency to take on too much responsibility
- Nervousness about public speaking
- Hesitancy about delegating tasks
- Discomfort taking big risks
- Impatience with bureaucracies
- Time management
- Sharing responsibility
- Organization skills
- Sitting still
- Writing skills
- Over talking
- Delegating tasks
- Presenting to public
- Public speaking
- Speaking too honestly
- Command of a particular foreign language.
Did any of these weaknesses ring a bell to you? Take note that these may not be good choices for your answer if the work requires specific skills in these areas.
But you ought to come up with your own, customized list of private and professional weaknesses that you can use for your answer. Here’s how to do it.
Start by asking yourself the following:
- Is there a work-related skill that I don’t like to do or don’t do well?
- Was there a time that I failed at any job?
- Has there been a time that I failed at any role and corrected it?
- Has my supervisor ever told me that I needed to work on something and then praised me when I corrected it?
- Did my co-workers ever criticize me for working in a particular way?
Remember, the easiest answers to the ‘what are your weaknesses’ question are going to be in two parts.
- The weakness you have taken note of.
- What you’re doing to correct it and become better.
So, once you made an inventory of your weaknesses, next, go to your job offer. What skills can you find?
Look at your list.
You will want to choose weak skills that ARE NOT essential for the job and select up to 3 weaknesses from your list that don’t match the skills listed in your job offer.
Once you’ve established your weakness, create a response that will put it in the best positive light. How do you do that? Here are three ways:
- Make sure you emphasize the positive aspect of your weakness and avoid using negative words when describing it
- Talk about how you’ve or will work hard to transform your weaknesses into strengths.
- Demonstrate how you recognized where you needed to improve on and how you’ve taken steps to better yourself.
Here are ways you can improve yourself to address a weakness.
- Take a class physically or get training online that will help you deal with those areas you need to improve on.
- Discover tools that will help you to track your time, schedule breaks, or collaborate more smoothly.
- Work closely with a mentor.
- Engage in volunteer work to enforce a skill you want to have.
- Join professional groups or industry associations.
- Join groups or workshops.
- Do an activity outside of work that uses that skill that you’ve identified as a weakness.
- Get help from an advisor.
- Find apps that help correct the weakness.
You’ll also want to give clear instances of how you’ve succeeded or if you are making progress by asking yourself:
- If your supervisor noticed a change after you took measures to correct a weakness.
- If you’ve noticed an improvement after taking action to correct your mistakes.
- If you can prove that you’re fixing your problems with clear results.
The STAR method is an effective way to demonstrate how the measures you’re taking are working and you can use it to answer almost any interview question.
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result
Situation – You start by talking about an event that required you to solve an issue, use a skill, or come up with a new idea at work.
Task – Next, you explain the action that your role requires in such circumstances.
Action – After you describe the action that you took and if it’s different from the specified task because of the insufficient skill you ought to also explain why you chose a different path.
Result – What happened in the end? How did things play out once you acted in a way that was different?
In conclusion, sometimes the hiring manager will attempt to catch you off guard with an interview question that isn’t straightforward forward and yes, the ‘what are your weaknesses interview question is one of the worst questions you can ask an already nervous candidate as it can be challenging to answer. But it is not just an obstacle to clear out of your way or a pitfall to avoid. It is a chance to show the employer how you’ll learn from constructive criticism, how you’re willing to make changes once you face challenges, and the way you’ll pick yourself up once you falter. Any employer would count those things as strengths.
And to properly answer this fearsome interview question, remember:
- Specialize in being self-aware, honest, and dedicated to improvement. If you’ve got these three qualities, your aforementioned weakness won’t destroy your chances of landing the job.
- Try to reflect on your real weaknesses and what you’re doing to improve in those areas.
- Give an honest and constructive answer when the interviewer as you what your weaknesses are and remember, you’re only human.