Job Interview Questions: “What are Your Weaknesses?”

Hiring a new employee is often a process of deselection. In many cases, a candidate is offered a job after all other candidates have been eliminated or placed on the B-List.

To speed this process, experienced hiring managers have mastered the art of the interview, becoming both experts at interrogation and red-pen executioners.

They’ve practiced for this game, and as a hopeful new hire, so should you.

Among the more common interview questions is, “What are your weaknesses?”

Crafting your answer on the spot is risky. Don’t go into your interview unprepared.

Tough interview questions are a chance to shift the discussion to a positive quality while confirming that you are indeed human, none of us quite perfect. Even with natural human imperfection, you can still be an outstanding candidate for the job.

Think about your weaknesses before the interview. Be honest with yourself about this and write your weaknesses down on paper. Make another column and write down your strengths.

Of your weaknesses, cross out any truly appalling ones that might cost you the job opportunity. Those don’t belong in the job interview. Pick one of the more benign weaknesses of those you’ve listed.

On the other column, the one listing your strengths, look for a solution to the weakness, a positive attribute to offset the negative one you may be asked to confess. If your list was thorough, the solution is already there.

Weakness: “I let mistakes get me down.”

Strength: “I take ownership of projects.”

Answer: “I’m sometimes too hard on myself, and that’s because I take ownership of projects, truly investing myself in each project’s success. If the team experiences an unexpected setback, I feel it. It isn’t my nature to be cavalier, but I find a better balance by reminding myself that setbacks are temporary. They’re also opportunities for us to learn and to fine-tune the process.”

Whatever your answer will be regarding your weakness, make it honest and pick something that is fixable. Don’t choose the worst weakness on your list. A job interview isn’t the church confessional or a leather couch in a therapist’s office. Also, follow that weakness with one of your strengths when you answer.

Before the interview, practice your answer aloud using words that you would normally use in conversation. You don’t want to seem mechanical or sound like you memorized your response.

Some hiring managers will ask follow-up questions based on the information you just offered. Have an answer ready if the interviewer asks for an example of a setback that you encountered and how you ultimately used it to strengthen the project.

Now you’ve demonstrated to the hiring manager that you are human – but also promising and coachable. They knew the former already. Pretending otherwise would be transparent on your part.

You’ve also turned a potential negative into a positive, given the manager assurance that you’ll strive for excellence, and successfully avoided unproductive conversations that might jeopardize your candidacy for the job.

Well done.