What Are Your Weaknesses?

How to Answer Job Interview Question “What Are Your Weaknesses”

Job interviews are basically just conversations. But why is it a source of so much anxiety among job hunters? The answer varies, but many have indicated that not knowing what the conversation will be about is a source of stress for them. The good news is that interviewers just recycle their questions, so a little research and preparation will go a long way in soothing your nerves. One of the universal favorites is the question about the applicant’s weakness.

General Advice for Answering Questions

Let’s lay down the basics first before we delve into specifics. The question on weakness is not the only one you will answer during the interview, so here are some general advice to remember when answering questions in any interview:
1. Listen and understand the question. If you did not understand, don’t hesitate to ask. If the problem is the interviewer’s accent, ask him to repeat. Don’t fake it.
2. Control your nerves. Interviewers expect some amount of nervousness. Nerves can affect your voice, so better watch it. Keep your answers brief and to the point.
3. Nonetheless, avoid yes or no answers. If it can’t be helped, expound a little, but keep it short.
4. Don’t take questions literally, they usually lead to one-word answers.


The Weakness Question

While there are a thousands of questions that may be asked, most of them can be classified under a category. The weakness question falls under the category of motivation questions. An interviewer likes to know what drives you or your motivation in working. They are usually the “why” questions. Many interviewers listen keenly to the answers.
You, on the other hand, most likely, don’t want to reveal your weaknesses to the interviewer. After all, your goal is to sell yourself, and who in his right mind, would want to buy a defective product? Don’t fret, the interviewer knows you are human and therefore flawed. In short, don’t sweat it.

How To Answer The Weakness Question

In general, when answering motivation questions(such as the weakness question), give an answer that will pull you towards them. It’s called the pull factor, referring to the motivations that drive you in their direction. The opposite, of course, is the push factor, those that drive you away from them. The first are more genuine and tend to be more appealing to hiring managers. To this end, try to stay positive whenever possible. The aura of negativity is usually unattractive.

However, this may be difficult when it comes to the weakness question, as weaknesses are usually regarded as a negative trait. So what do you do? Try to balance it with a positive, for example:

– “My biggest weakness is that I sometimes become overwhelmed with big tasks and miss deadlines. What I did was to break the task into small ones and list them down in order. I check and recheck the list to make sure that the task is done at the right time. Now, I don’t miss deadlines any more. In fact, I sometimes finish early leaving me with time to go over my work.”

This shows that while you are procrastinator, you are also organized. In the end, these flaws balance each other so that the former does not detract from your effectiveness. All your employer really cares about is that the job gets done. What is important is that you addressed the problem.

Another example would be:
– “I am a very shy person and I hate speaking in large groups. This was not a problem before because my boss usually left me well alone to do my work. But when my manager asked me to deliver a presentation during the company’s national meeting, I knew I had to face my fears. Fortunately, I had plenty of time. I read self-help books and volunteered at a national park as guide. This gave me the opportunity to practice. I was panicked at first, but with practice, I learned to relax. So when it was time for my presentation, I was ready. My colleagues were interested in my ideas, and now we are implementing them.”

Another approach to this question is to pick a quality that is not relevant to the job you are applying. For example, if the job is in sales, say that you are easily bored when left alone to work. Then segue into what you are doing to address the problem. In the example, continue by saying that you addressed boredom by looking for other productive things to do, however minor they may be. This will show the interviewer that you are aware of your shortcomings and are willing to do something about it.

Mistakes To Avoid

The biggest mistake you can make in answering this question is to say that you have no weaknesses. It suggests a lack of self-awareness, or worse, an ego as big as the moon. Despite what your mother tells you, you are not perfect, so better have an answer.

The second biggest mistake is to choose a quality that is actually positive when taken in the context of the job. An often-used reply to the weakness question is “I am a perfectionist and therefore end up working late into the night”. Don’t use this trite answer. It’s not only unoriginal, it’s also insincere. Plus, it suggests that you are inefficient because you cannot finish a job during regular work hours.

Final Reminder

As you can see, its easy enough to answer the weakness question. With a little reflection and preparation, you can ace the interview. You will find plenty of examples of replies, whether in self-help books or in the internet, and a lot of them will sound good enough to copy. Resist the temptation. Instead of parroting other people’s answer, craft your own and tailor it to your experience. Come up with a few anecdotes that will make your point. Do not fabricate an answer, especially one with facts woven into it. In this day and age, its easy to check them. Don’t be intimidated in revealing the inner workings of your mind. Interviewers ask the weakness question not to demean or belittle you, but to find out what moves you. If you answer candidly and honestly, you will surely succeed.

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