How not to answer interview questions on weaknesses.
Just after you think you’ve impressed the interviewers by telling them about your greatest strength, there comes the inevitable question:
‘Tell me, what do you think is your greatest weakness?’
While it can be tough to talk about weaknesses, saying that you have none is not an option! So, how does one answer that tricky question about one’s weaknesses?
No one is perfect. Being honest and open about what you can do better and how you are working on efforts to improve is a good start. But it’s equally important to keep in mind a few pointers on what not to say when asked about your weaknesses in a job interview.
- What you should not say: A general skill that is top of mind
Given the gravity of the question, avoid spur-of-moment answers about general skills. A generality like ‘communication skills‘ or ‘networking skills‘ could be the first to come to mind. However, with a quick answer you could overlook the importance of that skill for the role and even hurt your candidature.
What you could say: Sacrifice the ‘pawn’ – a minor weakness that is not very relevant for the role. Choose your words carefully and prepare for this question beforehand. Review the position you are applying for and list down critical skills. When the role needs the selected candidate to share a vision and motivate a team, communication & interpersonal skills could be a crucial skill even if it is not a stereotypical requirement for a similar job.
- What you should not say: That you have a weakness – which is actually a strength
This is as good as saying that you do not have a weakness at all. When you describe one of your strengths as a weakness you could end up saying, ‘I am a perfectionist and I can be tough on my team and myself.‘ The interviewer will see right through this obvious answer, so turning strengths into weaknesses is a complete no-no.
What you could say: Instead, back your answer with self-analysis. Your answer will carry a ring of sincerity and build rapport & trust. Remember, the employer is testing the waters to see how you react so it’s important to be prepared. Also, think through what the answer to what you could do/are doing to overcome the weakness, as this could be the next question.
- What you should not say: A 100% honest list of all flaws – minor and major
It’s best not to be defensive or come on too strongly about an area of improvement by making a statement with emotional overtones (like ‘I just can’t work in an unorganised environment’ or ‘I’m not at my best working with large teams’) or worse, listing all possible weaknesses. The point of this question is to gauge how you handle the query rather than to ask for a complete run-down on your areas of improvement.
What you could say: You need to tell the interviewer that you don’t think that you are perfect but in a manner that equally presents what you can do. Frame your responses by presenting polarities and using positive statements. For instance, instead of saying, ‘I’m not at my best working with large teams’ you could say ‘I prefer to work in smaller teams, as I have years of experience in motivating them to finish projects ahead of schedule.’
‘What’s your weakness?’ is not a straightforward question – it is a double-edged one. But it’s one that you can’t avoid. Our best tip: Root your answer in reality – based on a genuine analysis of the role and your weaknesses.
Did you ever face this question? Share with us how you handled it.
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