- “What is your biggest weakness in your work?”
- “What are three areas in which your supervisor wants/wanted you to improve?”
- “What’s your growing edge – what do you wish you could do better?”
- “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Why are they asking this?
While it is always possible a candidate will reveal a deal-breaking issue, thus saving the employer thousands of dollars by avoiding a bad hire, I don’t believe this is most interviewers’ primary motivation.
Employers know you’re not perfect. What they don’t know is whether you are coachable, whether you take feedback well, whether you’re self-aware enough and motivated enough to see what you can improve – and actually improve it. Can you turn your weaknesses into strengths, or at least effectively work around them to get the job done superbly?
Tips for planning a good answer to interview questions about weaknesses:
- Talk about a weakness you’re handling really well, or a skill you’re currently improving. If you can be specific about how you’re improving it – e.g., “I’m taking a class at UC Berkeley Extension” or “My manager wrote great things about this in my recent performance evaluation” – all the better.
- Sandwich a weakness between strengths. Notice that the answer above starts and ends with positive results.
- Mention a weakness you’ve largely overcome already. If you take this approach, be careful not to sound like you’re dodging the question. Be authentic.
- Address a weakness the employer is already well aware of, for example lack of a certain qualification, while making the case for your ability to obtain that qualification and/or excel without it.
- Name a skill you lack that is so cutting edge that the very fact that you’re concerned about it shows that you set high standards for yourself.
- Don’t disqualify yourself by bringing up a weakness that casts serious doubt on your ability to do the job. For example, if you’re interviewing for a job as a project manager, don’t say you lack assertiveness.
Try out your answer on a friend or an interview coach, and ask for feedback. Does your answer to “What’s your weakness?” show that you’re a mature professional who knows he/she is not perfect but is constantly growing and gets great results?