Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Is Answering the “Weakness” Question Your Interview Weakness?

By Lee Hecht Harrison on August 28, 2013

In preparing for a job interview, many candidates make the mistake of focusing on questions they can answer comfortably and avoiding the ones that are tougher to tackle. The “What is your weakness?” question is a prime example. Some job seekers simply aren’t sure how to respond.  Consequently, they may fail to develop a strategy for answering this standard interview question.

In his Careerealism blog, The One Question That Ruins an Interview, headhunter and author Jim Giammatteo recommends honesty in developing a response. “Being honest with this response will go a long way toward getting the offer because they’ll know that, if you can be honest about your weaknesses, they can probably trust your other responses.”

While honesty projects authenticity, here are three precautions to consider before volunteering your greatest weakness to a potential employer.

  1. Don’t be superficial.  There was a time when job seekers were coached to take a strength and disguise it as a weakness (e.g., “Sometimes I simply work too hard and push myself too much.”) These cringe-worthy responses are contrived and disingenuous.
  2. Avoid personal characteristics. Our behaviors are deeply embedded and very difficult to change. Avoid using traits like “stubborn” or “quick tempered” when discussing weaknesses. Focus instead on specific skills that can be improved through training or experience.
  3. Don’t volunteer a deal breaker. Select a skill that you could honestly improve and would add value to the role – but one that’s not critical to perform in the position.  Provide insight into what you’re doing to overcome the weakness.  Here’s a good example: “I get nervous when I have to speak before a group, but I’ve joined Toastmasters and learned that careful preparation is helping me improve my presentation skills.”

Hiring professionals ask the “weakness” question to evaluate your preparedness, make certain weaknesses won’t hinder your performance, and ascertain your willingness to take the steps necessary to overcome limitations. Don’t let the “weakness” question become your weakness. Be prepared, authentic and strategic … and nail the question.

One Response to “Is Answering the “Weakness” Question Your Interview Weakness?”

  1. Kim Mitchell

    Thank you for putting this question into perspective. Now if I could only answer the question, “Why do you think you’re the best person for the job?”


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