“What’s your biggest weakness?”
It’s the interview question that nobody likes. (Well, except for hiring managers, who ask it very frequently.) You should definitely be prepared with a well-thought-out answer.
Most of us are prepared to chat about our strengths and feel prepared to list our personal qualities with examples of strengths we possess that make us a valuable employee. We all like to chat about what we are good at; that’s easy.
But nobody’s perfect! We all have our development points and that is fine, but how we communicate that in an interview can be quite a tricky task. It’s always awkward delving into those less impressive parts of your skill set that can leave you feeling quite sensitive. When asked in an interview setting to describe our weakness or development points, we seem to let anxiety take over: the anxiety of not looking perfect. We churn out default vague responses that we think our employer wants to hear, but these are not a true reflection of our real development areas. In this situation, not only are you misleading your potential future employer, but you are misleading yourself.
So, how do you navigate this question in an interview that provides your employer with a true reflection of yourself and secures you that highly sought-after role?
It’s important not to lie or gloss over your weaknesses. Most of all, this question is designed to show your ability to think critically, to reflect on yourself, what qualities aren’t as good as others and what needs work.
Here’s how to approach that all-too-important question of “what’s your biggest weakness?”.
To start yourself off, think about something that isn’t your strong suit. It could be communicating with others, delegating to others or attention to detail. Whatever it is, think about it in the past – maybe even when you first started in your previous role. Show that you recognise it’s something that doesn’t come naturally to you and show the steps you’ve taken to better yourself in this area. Mention that you’re still working at becoming even better at this skill. It could go a little something like this…
“Well, public speaking doesn’t come naturally to me. When I started university, it was a massive problem. I was terrified every time I had to speak in public and, when I spoke, I didn’t do a particularly good job. So, I started small. I promised myself that I would start speaking up in the company of small groups, with my friends or project group, for example. Then, I slowly built my audience. I worked up the confidence to take a public speaking class, which was a huge stepping stone for me. Now, even though I still get nervous, the anxiety isn’t something that renders me incapable anymore. Recently, I spoke as part of a conference panel to over 100 people. Now to work on my shaky hands!”
See, that wasn’t so bad! Just make sure you don’t say something like “I struggle with being a perfectionist” because nobody really believes that is your biggest weakness. Sorry, but it’s the truth.