So you got that interview you set your mind on. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to securing a job you love. But first you’ve got to ace your job interview. And that is where many people start to overthink, underthink, or just plain freak out. After all, being grilled in what feels like a cruel game of 20 questions can be daunting and sometimes stressful. But no worries, because you’ve come to the right place to get the preparation you need to get the job you want.
One of the often dreaded questions of any interview is “What is your biggest weakness?” The counterpart to that question requesting your strengths is often much easier to respond to. But the question inquiring about your weaknesses can be a tricky one, because the best way to respond isn’t just a quick rundown of your weaknesses. Rather, you’ve got to be strategic and frame your weaknesses in a way that shows a level of self-awareness and the drive to overcome those weaknesses.
Admitting your weaknesses does not disqualify you for a job. We all have weaknesses, and being able to admit them, learn from them, and take proactive steps to conquer them are valuable traits for everyone, anytime.
One common mistake is to just lay out a list of weaknesses, which can actually be problematic if you want to make a good impression on your interviewer. You see, if you don’t frame weaknesses in a positive way, you’re basically inviting your interviewer to see your weakness and to dwell on your weakness. Framing your weaknesses in positivity can help provide a redeeming aspect to whatever you say, and highlight why you are still a good fit for the job--not only in spite of your weaknesses, but in light of your weaknesses and the positive steps you’re taking to overcome them.
Think through your strengths and weaknesses
You may have a lot of strengths and positive attributes--and obviously some weaknesses too. Whether you are talking about strengths or weaknesses, you’ll want to be strategic before you just go running down a list of good or bad things about yourself. Before ever going into an interview, you should be doing your homework by re-reading the job description and the desired qualities of a new hire in the position in question. By knowing what a hiring manager is looking for, you can think how best to position yourself and your attributes or lack thereof.
When it comes to talking about your weaknesses, you should be sure that the weakness you choose to highlight doesn’t apply specifically to the job you’re applying for. This is where reviewing the requirements and qualifications for a particular job is very important. After all, if a job requires talking on the phone for a majority of the day, or visiting clients at their offices, and you have a hard time talking to people in general, you may want to focus in on a different weakness (or, consider why you want the job to begin with and if you would actually be happy in such a job that draws heavily from your struggle-points rather than your strengths.
Shape the narrative you want them to remember
Media does it. Politicians do it. Writers do it. Don’t let the story about you be written by someone else. Take control of your story and the picture that’s painted of you by taking control of the narrative. Rather than simply answering the question that was asked, strategize how you can answer the question that should have been asked--why you’re still a good fit for the job despite your weaknesses. Answer the question in such a way that it gives the interviewer the information they want to know, but simultaneously highlights good attributes in you as well.
3 examples of how to answer the question “What is your greatest weakness?”
- I have a hard time handing over the reins of a project
Three cheers for project ownership. Employers love to see employees invested in a project, and confident enough to take full ownership of the success of a project. However, business is generally a team effort, and there comes a time in the life of most projects when they must be handed on to another department or team member who has the expertise to bring it across the finish line. If you have a hard time handing over a project to someone else, or realizing when you need help with a project, it’s okay to admit this. Just remember to balance out the weakness with the facts of how you’ve worked to conquer it. Action items you might have implemented, and may want to mention include implementing deadlines on yourself, or inviting others into the process to provide another set of eyes and help you break through self-criticism and negative chatter.
- I focus too much on the details
Employers love people who focus on details because this attribute can save a lot of money and heartache down the road. But while somebody who hones in on the details can be a very positive force in a company, focusing too heavily on details may also hold a project back or slow it down. Still, this trait can definitely be shown in a positive light by adding what you’re doing to keep focusing in on the details, but also knowing when it’s time to move the project on to the next step. This might include taking a step back to refocus on the big picture and allowing yourself to admit when and where the details are becoming detrimental to the project.
- I have a hard time striking a healthy work-life balance
Being able to strike a healthy balance between your work and personal life is vital to doing your best work and not getting burnt out on the job. If this is a struggle for you, mention this weakness in terms of the fact that you invest in and love the work you do, and give it your 100%. But as a result, it can be difficult to put it down, especially if you’re in a remote position. Then lay out the steps you’ve taken to help you rest outside of work so you can be your best everyday when you show up on the job. These might include turning off email notifications when you’ve clocked out for the day, or leaving your phone in another room once you get home. Just be sure in advance that the job you’re applying for doesn’t require you to be available 24/7 so that you can determine which examples to share of how you’ve achieved a necessary work-life balance.
How to turn your weaknesses into strengths
- Acknowledge your weakness
Self-awareness is one of the first steps to understanding where you struggle and how you can address the weakness. Take a good look at your work or academic history and list out areas that have been a challenge for you, whether working as part of a team, working with certain types of personalities, being able to set boundaries and say ‘no’, getting impatient when a project doesn’t move as quickly as you’d like because of others’ involvement, lack of confidence or experience, etc.
- List out any positive sides of the “weakness”
While it’s important to acknowledge your struggles, it’s equally important to be able to see how your traits, habits, etc could also be positive when guided in the right way. While the positive aspect may not be readily visible, the bright side may come from the diligence and initiative you apply to overcoming it.
- Determine what you need to do to start overcoming a habit or weakness
Brainstorming and creating a list of things you can do, no matter how small, can help create a roadmap for overcoming your weaknesses.
- Make a plan to overcome
Whether you come up with a daily practice for self-improvement in one particular area, a list of 12 weaknesses you want to work on, one month at a time, in the coming year, etc, putting the blueprints together toward building yourself into a more capable person and employee will pay off. As you build your roadmap, be sure to include the tangible things you can do daily, weekly, etc. to improve your weaknesses, and yourself overall.
- Take action
Once you’ve got a plan in place, the next step is to just start doing it! After all, there’s no time like the present to work toward your goals of improving yourself, conquering weaknesses that have held you back on the job, and developing yourself into the person who can get the job you want.
Be sure to keep track of what you do in regards to conquering your weaknesses. Better yet, identify areas at work where you struggle and feel particularly weak, and make a plan to work on something new each month. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself more productive than ever, and becoming better at everything you do. While the points you struggle with may never become simple in a second-nature kind of way, the next time you go to an interview, you’ll be able to provide real life examples of what you’re doing and have done to fight your weaknesses.
Remember that when it comes to talking about your weaknesses (yes, and even your strengths), what really matters is how you frame them and highlight why the good and even the bad make you the right - and dare we say - perfect fit for the job.
The CareerBliss Team
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