How to Answer the Dreaded Interview Question: What Are Your Weaknesses?
We’ve all been there. You’re being interviewed for what you’ve convinced yourself is your dream job in an idyllic company when the interviewer asks THE question. You know the one. They almost can’t help but ask it:
What are your biggest weaknesses?
You could completely panic, get weak in the knees, have sweat form on your upper lip, and spew something you later regret. But you won’t. You know why? You’re going to be prepared.
First, it’s necessary to take a look at why interviewers ask this question, and this will help you formulate your reply. The main reason almost every interviewer asks this question despite its rather cringe-worthy ubiquitous nature is they want to know what kind of struggles you’ve dealt with in your job and how you overcame them. Everyone knows people run into snags and challenges but it’s how a person handles adversity that speaks to his or her character. It also helps distinguish the genuinely hard workers from those who might be overly confident.
Remember to remain composed as you answer but here’s the tricky part – you should try to attempt to come up with something off the cuff. We know, we know, this kind of flies in the face of being prepared but just as much as an interviewer wants an answer to this question, she also wants it to be a truthful and genuine reply. If you have something pre-prepared you run the risk of coming off as disingenuous. It’s important to understand that those conducting the interview truly want to know what your weaknesses are, and it’s just as important for you to know them as well. If you have trouble coming up with some (lucky you!), you might even consider taking an inventory that will help you to hone in on some of your weaker areas.
Probably the most crucial thing to keep in mind is what these interviewers DO NOT want to hear. First of all, they don’t want to hear lies, so make sure to give an honest answer. Remember, though, you want to avoid having a patent reply prepared. They also don’t want to hear the trite, overused answers we’ve all heard (and likely said) at some point. Here are a couple examples of no-nos:
“I’m too much of a perfectionist.”
“I work too hard.”
“I’m too Type A when it comes to my career.”
“I rarely take time off and my personal life suffers.”
These reek of inauthenticity. Another area that’s become somewhat taboo is naming something in your personal life. We once went to a career-counseling seminar in which the person recommended saying something like, “I’m a slob. I keep a terrible apartment.”
We actually think this is a slippery slope and, thus, should be avoided. The reason goes back to what interviewers DO want to hear, and that’s a genuine workplace weakness, how it affected something in your job, and how you overcame this weakness. Another reason to avoid getting into your personal business is you might expose some drama, and no work environment thrives with a person with a penchant for the dramatic.