Going for a job interview is never easy. But some questions come up time and time again that seasoned professionals need to have an answer to.
One of those questions is the dreaded “What’s your biggest weakness?” For most people, their biggest weakness is not being able to answer that question, despite the fact that they’ve usually had weeks to think about it.
Not to worry. Here are some tips for how to talk about your biggest weakness in the job interview.
1. Be Honest About Your Weaknesses, But Don’t Mention Essential Skills
Being honest and authentic is a good thing, except, however, when you suggest that you don’t have the skills an employer wants for the job. Instead of going to an interview to become an IT professional and talking about how bad you are at IT, focus on some other area that isn’t directly related to the job.
Perhaps you’re a genius when it comes to getting networks to work, but not so good with your finances. The interviewer will take on board what you say, but they’re not likely to care. After all, they’re employing you for your networking skills, not your ability to stay away from the slot machines on the weekend.
2. Talk About How You’ve Overcome Weaknesses
Dylan Schweizer is the talent director at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He says that the best way to deal with this particular question is to highlight a weakness but then talk about the things that you have done to turn it into a strength. Talk your interviewer through what you did and how you managed to solve the problem.
But Schweizer recommends against going into detail about areas that you’re still working on, or situations in which you tried to improve one of your skills but hit a snag.
For instance, suppose you tell your interviewer that you used to struggle to come into work on time. You say that you’ve been working really hard and now you get less drunk on Sunday night and so you’ve been showing up to work more often on Monday mornings.
While this might be a significant improvement over the previous situation, you’re still unlikely to get hired, says Schweizer. Instead of going on about the fact that you sometimes show up to work, make the point that now you take timeliness very seriously, not only for yourself but also other people. This will make it clear to the person interviewing you that you empathize with why they might want somebody who cares about punctuality.
3. Don’t Learn Your Lines
Coming across as authentic can be tricky, especially if you’ve been to a dozen or so interviews already. It’s a good idea to be prepared for various categories of questions in advance, but not to repeat the same answers word for word in every interview. Doing this will be obvious to trained interviewers. Instead, try including bits of detail from the rest of the interview to show that your answer is authentic.
4. Find Out What Your Weaknesses Actually Are
One of the reasons this particular question is so difficult to answer is that, as people, we spend a lot of time and energy avoiding finding out what our weaknesses actually are.
A good piece of career advice, therefore, is to test yourself to find out where you might need to improve, instead of just guessing. This will actually give you some concrete answers you can give to your interviewer.
Penelope Trunk, a career coach, says that everybody has weaknesses, even if they aren’t willing to admit it. Interviewers, she says, will be more suspicious of what you claim are your strengths if you’re not also clear on your weaknesses.
5. Only Talk About Work-Related Weaknesses
Lifestyle blogger, Amanda Abella, says that any weaknesses you mention should be appropriate to the company you are applying to. It turns out that businesses don’t really care about your person weaknesses. They’re interested in your weaknesses when it comes to doing the job.
For instance, if you’re applying for a clerical position at a finance firm, it probably isn’t all that relevant to tell the hiring manager that you struggle with confidence when speaking in front of large numbers of people. Chances are, that won’t be a part of your role.
From a professional point of view, she says, it’s also a good idea to avoid going into detail about personal dramas. Hiring managers know that everybody has their own personal issues, but they usually don’t want to hear about them. It’s not work-related, and it’s not very professional.