Suggestions On How To Handle The "What’s Your Greatest Weakness?" Question

Interviews are about putting our best foot forward. Yet, why do interviewers come up with questions like that? (1) Because we are all humans and all have weaknesses; (2) because they want to put us to the test and see how we respond; and (3) because they want to know how we overcome difficulties.

A big part of the job application process is about “reading between the lines” and putting the emphasis at the right place. When a recruiter asks you what your weaknesses are, you can answer by stating your weaknesses or you can answer by “qualifying” your weaknesses. In other words, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Following are some suggestions:

1. Choose a weakness that does not go to the core competencies required for the position to which you are applying to (e.g. (1) If you are applying to become an analyst, don’t say that you are “disorganized.” (2) If you are applying to become a lawyer, don’t hint that you have ethical issues or that you are a bad writer.).

2. Focus on how you have improved and mention the steps you have taken to change. This will show that you are pro-active.

3. Discuss how the job to which you are applying to will help you in building your skills set. Be careful here. Don’t state it in a way that implies that you may become a burden. Instead, look forward to it as a “challenge.”

4. Mention a valuable advice you received that is related to your weakness and elaborate on it.

5. See if there are “good sides” to your weakness (e.g. some strengths drawn to their extremes can become weaknesses, like being “too” perfectionist or “too” demanding – toned down, however, they are real strengths).

The basic idea is to make your weakness look like a “past” weakness or a “minor” weakness. By the way, the capacity to move forward and improve is actually a good thing.

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