Nobody likes to talk about themselves in a negative light, especially during an interview for a job they really want. Unfortunately, being asked about your weaknesses is a fairly common question that gets asked all the time. It might not always be worded the exact same way, though – sometimes it might get paired together with being asked about your strengths, or worded in a different manner, such as asking about your ‘areas of improvement’.
Regardless, this question can still trip even the most experienced of interviewees, so don’t worry if you struggle with answering this as well. After all, you want to show yourself in the best possible light, so what do you do when a question directly asks you otherwise? Answering callously without thought can make you come off as conceited and dishonest, or self-deprecating and unqualified. Therefore, you’ll need to give this question some thought so that whatever weaknesses you answer with won’t hurt your chances at getting the job.
It can be tricky, but it can absolutely be done if you come prepared.
A well-rounded analysis
You might lament, what’s even the point of asking this question? What exactly are the interviewers looking for, and is it not enough for them to just ask you about what you’re actually good at?
In truth, there aren't any ‘good’ weaknesses for an interview – nor are they really looking for one perfect answer. Interviewers ask this question because they want to get a better sense of who you are as a candidate. After all, there’s only so much they can gather from your resume, so interviewing you is a way for them to know you a little more personally, and to determine if their impressions from your resume were correct.
More importantly, they want to know how well you, as a potential hire, know yourself, and if you are able to be truthful about not just your shortcomings. It also serves as an indicator of whether you’re willing to overcome them (or at least, ensure that it won’t get in the way of your work).
Planning your answer
With that in mind, what’s the best way to talk about your weaknesses? For starters, think about the job you’re interviewing for and the qualities they’re after. After that, think about the challenges that you have faced up till now, and come up with an honest weakness that you have that isn’t essential for success in the job you’re interviewing for.
For example, if you’re gunning for a role in graphic design, you could talk about being nervous about public speaking – how although you don’t need to do it often, there are times where it comes in handy, such as when pitching new ideas during meetings.
Showing your improvement
For each weakness that you provide to the interviewers, you should also not only prepare a brief example to describe it, but also how you attempted to overcome it. After all, no one wants to hire someone who is unwilling to better their flaws.
Going back on the previous example about public speaking, you can talk about how in order to tackle your fear of speaking up, you joined the local debate club or took courses on public speaking. Or that you got help from a mentor or advisor, or found tools that helped you work on your weakness.
Better yet, if you have concrete evidence of improvement, then tell them! It could be positive feedback from your supervisor or colleagues, or how it has helped make a positive impact on your work efficiency.
Ultimately you want to approach this question in a way that will help you gain favour with the interviewers. Keep in mind that the main goal of this question is to showcase how you deal with adversity and push past it on the job. After all, this is one question where you don’t want to come off as ingenuous!