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Navigating the “What are Your Weaknesses?” Interview Question
Admitting your weaknesses to someone you hope will give you a job can seem counterintuitive. You obviously don’t want to make yourself look bad. However, answering this question strongly and honestly can take you from being a good applicant to a great one.
So how do you navigate the latter half of the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Here are some of the best weaknesses to mention in a job interview and tips to help frame your response.
The Importance of Admitting Weaknesses
You may be asking why this is so key in a job interview.
Your qualifications and experience speak for themselves, but they say little or nothing about your personality. Admitting that you have weaknesses demonstrates honesty and self-awareness. It also indicates that you're open to analyzing and improving your performance. Perhaps most importantly, it helps the interviewer to establish whether you'd be a good cultural fit.
So, don’t insist that you have no weaknesses. At best, you'll come across as naïve.
Identifying Your "Best" Weaknesses
Owning up to weaknesses is important but remember you're still in an interview. This isn't the time to confess your deep-seated dislike for authority figures.
When it comes to choosing good weaknesses for a job interview, frame them as behaviors. These traits can be changed with a little focus and effort, as opposed to ingrained personality traits. Always note that you’re working to combat these behaviors, which will alleviate their negativity.
To help you pick your "best" weaknesses, ask yourself the following questions:
- Could it seriously hinder your ability to do the job? If so, don't mention it.
- Does it have a positive message? Have you overcome it?
- Can you present an example that shows your progression?
- Is it a "fake" weakness (i.e. a strength in disguise)? If so, don't expect your interviewer to buy it.
- Is it relevant? Don't say "I can't speak French" if you've never needed to in a professional capacity and wouldn't be expected to in your new role.
How to Structure Your Response
When faced with a question that involves self-analysis, it can be hard to get your point across clearly. Follow this three-part structure to demonstrate your self-awareness and frame your weakness in a positive light:
- Outline your weakness
- Give an example of how it has impacted your professional life
- Explain how you overcame it
Ensure the question doesn't leave you blindsided by preparing some sample answers. You'll need more than one, just in case your interviewer asks you to detail additional weaknesses. Use the following common examples – broken down into the structure detailed above – as a guide:
- I struggled to gauge the length of tasks.
- I underestimated how long I'd need to complete a project, which meant I had to rush to avoid missing the client's deadline.
- I knew I needed help, so I spoke to my manager. They recommended I break larger projects into smaller tasks and manage my workload that way. I'm now much more efficient and haven't come close to missing a deadline since.
- I found it hard to delegate or work as a team.
- This meant I took on too much myself. I felt burned out and the quality of my work suffered.
- I identified that my failure to delegate was caused by a lack of trust, which stemmed from when I had handed over work poorly in the past, leading to errors. I put together a new briefing document to improve my handovers, and it has now been rolled out across the department.
- I have limited experience of [a piece of software that isn't critical to the job].
- A client asked me for advice about using the latest version, and I bluffed the answer because I didn't want to admit the gap in my skill set.
- After looking into it, I realized that a similar piece of software to the one we were using was actually much more effective for our needs. I was already using it, but I've since taken online training and now have a certification.
For more interview and career tips, browse our Michael Page Advice section. You can also get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants, submit your resume, and explore our job listings.