You’re going to get asked.
At some point in the interview process, whether it’s first round or further down in the sequence, you’re going to get asked questions about your strengths and weaknesses. Whether the interview is going well or going poorly, you can count on running into the question “What would you say is your greatest weakness?” And not having a good answer prepared can make a good interview suddenly start to go very poorly.
So what does a good answer look like?
Well before we answer that, it’s important to understand WHY this question is asked so much. An interviewer isn’t just throwing out this question because it’s on a list of “top interview questions” they found online. If they ask you this question, it’s likely for one of two reason (if not both). First, they’re wanting to get a feeling for your level of self-awareness. Do you actually know yourself well enough to know your weaknesses? And second, if they manage a team, they’re looking to see how your potential answer would fit into the team they already have. It’s okay to have certain weaknesses if most of the team is strong in that area…but a relatively minor weaknesses might be a deal killer if everyone on the team is also weak there.
When we take these two reasons into consideration, we immediately see why trite advice like “turn a strength into a weakness” is such bad advice. No one believes “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” is a serious answer anyway, but more importantly it doesn’t help the interviewer with either of the aspects they’re looking for.
So the best answer is an honest one. Not a job-killing honest one like “I struggle with deadlines” when you know ahead of time the job involves working under a time crunch…it’s better to just not apply for the job. But an honest answer that demonstrates you know where you add value and you know where you need develop.
But after your honest answer, follow up with a simple phrase: “But I have learned…” and then go one to mention what you’re doing to work around that weakness or to personally improve upon in.
An honest answer and an honest attempt at bettering oneself.
These things tell your interviewer that you’re self-aware enough to know your weakness, and serious enough to work to improve it. They also let him or her know how you’ll fit onto the team. That’s what interviewers are looking for when they ask “What’s your greatest weakness?” and that’s what you’re looking for when you prepare your answer.
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