What is your greatest weakness? You've got to love this question. At face value, it feels like there is no way out of this question. Do they REALLY want you to tell them a weakness? You’re at this interview to show them how amazing you are, not tell them that punctuality isn't your strong suite.
There’s typically three answers to this question.
Response #1: Backhanded Weakness
My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist!
I'm a workaholic.
I get frustrated when the job doesn't get done correctly.
I just care too much.
Do any of these sound familiar? The thought here is that you can get away with making a strength sound like your "weakness". This is a bit cliché and really, the interviewer will see right through this. Avoid at all costs.
Response #2: Real Weakness
Hopefully it goes without saying here, but there IS such a thing as too honest. Letting the interviewer know that you often take planned "sick" days or have a tendency to steal office equipment is something that really doesn't need to make it into your response here. Honesty is important, but let's not get carried away.
Response #3 : Real Weakness, but you’re working on it
We all have weaknesses, nobody’s going to crucify you for not being perfect. The purpose of this question though is to hear how you address those weaknesses in your life. With this answer, we’re going to pick a real weakness we have. Maybe we really do lose track of time easily. We’re not the best multi-taskers. We struggle to speak up in meetings. These are all reasonable weaknesses that you could have. What we're going to do with this answer though is be honest (not too honest) about our weakness. We're going to lay out the steps we’ve taken to get better in those areas, and how we’ve managed to put systems in place to ensure these are not weaknesses that will negatively impact our work.
You’ll notice that everything we’ve talked about so far has been in a professional context. The interviewer doesn't want to hear that your weakness is a lack of willpower when it comes to chocolate cake or your irrational fear of snowmen. it might be tempting to throw out a personal weakness that doesn't make you look bad at your job, but might technically qualify as an answer to this question; resist this urge.
This doesn't need to be a scary question! With a good response to this question, you’ll not only show the interviewer that you’re more self aware than a potato, but that you’re the kind of person who see’s challenges as opportunities for success. You'll show that you can take your weakness and turn it into a strength. So let's take a look at an example of a good response that will show your interviewer that you’re a well rounded candidate. A candidate who is self aware of their weakness and is able to overcome that weakness.
"I would have to say that i really struggle with keeping track of all of the things I have to do. With meetings, calls, daily and weekly reports, I’m often overwhelmed and can easily lose track of what needs to be done and by when. It’s because of this though that I religiously use my digital calendar and to-do list. I found that trying to remember everything is impossible, and by building the habit of writing down my meetings and tasks right when I get them, I’ve been able to meet all of my deadlines much more reliably. In fact, I’ve also found that by doing this, I really free up my attention so I can focus 100% on what I’m doing, rather than worrying about whether or not I should be working on another project."
Let's break down that response because there are a few parts of it that I really want you to take away so that you can apply them to your own examples. First, notice we didn't shy away from the weakness. “I’m not good at remembering all the things I need to do”; geez that’s bad. but again we all have some kind of weakness like this, and being honest about it is just going to show that you’re self aware enough to recognize that it’s real weakness that needs to be addressed. And that’s the key! It's a problem that needs to be addressed. If we stopped right there with our weakness after "I struggle to keep track of my due dates", this would be a bad answer. The reason this can be such a powerful response is because we used our authentic weakness to set up the fact that we have come up with a solution to resolve the weakness. We mentioned that we use a calendar and planner to keep track of everything, and have build up the habit of tracking things as soon as we get them. That’s really a great habit, whether or not we considered this our weakness. So we can see that even though in this scenario we consider this our weakness, by putting systems in place to fix it, we're actually better off than most others at knowing what needs to be done and by when.
That’s the beauty of this answer. We’re not just accounting for our weakness, we’re flipping it on it’s head. we’re turning our weakness into a strength. We just told our interviewer that we are exceptionally organized and have daily tracker that we utilize religiously. With the cherry on top that by doing this, we are always more focused on the job at hand, because we don't have to worry about missing anything. The great thing is that you can take this approach with nearly any weakness, you just need to show that you’re aware of your weakness, and that you have put systems in place to ensure that your weakness can actually end up being a strength. This is what the interviewer wants to hear and is what’s going to win you the most points when answering the interview question “Tell me about your greatest weakness."