There’s one interview question that has the ability to trip you up in the middle of what was a very confident pitch about yourself, and that’s ‘what is your biggest weakness?’. You may panic about the idea of sharing anything that reveals your flaws but responding with “I do not have any weaknesses” will not suffice! If anything, it may make you sound a little overconfident and unwilling to take criticism on board. When an employer asks you this question, they’re simply looking to see how much self-awareness you have and how willing you are to grow.
So how do you give a good answer? Well, a strong answer identifies a weakness that in the right role could be perceived as a positive attribute. Start by making a list of any known limitations that have challenged you at work so that you can compare them and ensure that they do not identify as something that’s essential for the job. Once you have one or two answers that are non-essential skills take some time to create a response that will frame your weakness as a positive.
Without explanation, your answer to the weakness interview question could be perceived as a negative. It’s important that you turn your weakness into a strength and here are five examples of how to do this.
1. Explain how you’ve transformed your weakness into a strength
Notice how in the example below, the interviewee admits to being a yes person but has learned to know when to drawback a little.
“I’m a Yes Person, I have a tendency to take on too much responsibility, but I have learned to set boundaries. I know how to prioritise what is urgent and I’m also not afraid to say to my colleagues that I will need a little time to investigate something and come to them with an informed answer. I will always help, though, wherever I can.”
2. Show that you recognise where you need to improve and how you are taking steps to better yourself
See how the interviewee below recognises that they’ve perhaps not got as much experience as maybe the employer is looking for, but they are passionate about technology and software solutions and are quick to learn.
“I admit that I’ve only been using Sage for a short while, but I’ve completed several courses in this time and have a genuine interest in software solutions. I’ve even gained transferrable digital skills that I can attribute to new systems. I pick things up very quickly and I would love to continue my learning with you.”
3. Reference a personal attribute that could be seen as a weakness, but you use as a strength
Personal attributes are equally important since people work with people. Being an introvert, as in the example given, could be seen as a weakness. In accountancy and finance, though, quietly getting on with the task in hand is not a bad thing. The interviewee below also shows a great deal of self-awareness as they deliberately put themselves forward for projects.
“I’m a bit of an introvert, which can sometimes make me appear quiet. Beneath the surface, I take everything in though and am always willing to help my colleagues. Knowing that I am quiet, I proactively put myself forward for tasks and commit to taking on more challenges.”
4. Give a real-life example
Some of the strongest answers give a specific real-life example of something that you’ve identified as a weakness but have been able to overcome and even excel in, as in the example below.
“Writing business reports has not always been my strong point but I have found some online tools to help me re-phrase what I’m trying to convey and adding this context to the numbers has given me more confidence in what I’m presenting. Now my colleagues turn to me for advice.”
5. Show a high degree of self-awareness
As we’ve already mentioned, employers are looking to see how reflective you are and how you might fit into their team. The interviewee below knows that they have a tendency to put pressure on themselves, but they’ve developed key strategies to stop them from feeling overwhelmed, making them a good hire.
“I have very high standards and perhaps put too much pressure on myself at times. I've developed the ability to recognise when I'm beginning to do this, though. For example, I can become incredibly immersed in a project and forget to take lunch breaks, but I now set reminders to break and encourage my team to do the same.”
The important thing to remember when answering ‘what is your biggest weakness’ is to be honest and keep your answer concise. If you go into too much detail, you might get lost in your answer. If you follow the format of stating your weakness and how you make it a strength, you can’t go far wrong.
Of course, if you’d like to run your answer past us before your interview, just give us a call. We love to help!