"What are your weaknesses?"
Well, let's see...
Moleskine journals and fine point pens. The "Queer Eye" reboot, season one. Lemonade mixed with sparkling water. Scoring a deal on flowers to plant in my garden. Taking a nap in a hammock on a summer day.
Those are the kind of weaknesses that I'm happy to chat about any day.
But imagine being asked "What are your weaknesses?" in an interview. Everything changes. Suddenly it's the kind of question that makes people want to run the other way!
If this commonly asked interview question makes you feel like you're in the hot seat, I'm here to tell you that you're not alone. But it doesn't have to stay that way.
So what DO you say? How do you answer the question genuinely and authentically, in a way that doesn’t sound cliché or make the employer question your fit?
Most people respond by sharing a personality trait and spinning it into a strength. This strategy can work, but it's a little riskier.
Employers hear a lot of answers that sound something like "I'm a perfectionist, and here's how it's challenged me in the past. But I've learned how to manage it well, and now it helps me maintain a high-quality of work and do all of these great things..."
Without realizing it, candidates often end up sharing very similar answers. So their responses pack less punch and can start to sound cliché. Plus, personality traits are often seen as fixed and difficult to change. The employer might begin to wonder if that trait will get in your way, no matter how hard you've worked to turn it into a strength.
One simple shift can help you avoid these potential pitfalls and answer this question even more confidently.
Here's the secret: Focus a skill, rather than a personality trait.
A skill, of course, is something you can learn. So even if a skill is currently a weakness, it doesn't have to stay that way. It's something you can improve! By sharing a skill, it's easier to focus on the positive assets you bring and highlight why you're an excellent fit for the role.
How do you know which skill to choose?
I'll break down this strategy and give you two options to consider in the video below:
Thanks for watching!
Choose a skill as your weakness, rather than a personality trait, because it's easier to show growth and progression. Share only one weakness, unless the employer prompts you to share more.
Option 1: Present a skill that you've gotten better at over time.
Tell the story of how you turned that weakness into a strength.
Be sure to choose a skill that's relevant to the job you're applying to.
Include the steps that you took to improve that skill, and the results you achieved or the impact you made because of your efforts.
Option 2: Pick a gap in your skills; describe why it's not a barrier to your success.
Use the job posting as your guide.
Zero in on a preferred qualification where you don't meet the employer's expectations 100%, and present that skill as your weakness.
Address why you'll be able to overcome this weakness: Share the skills you've built that are similar to the skills required for the role. Highlight a brief example of a related experience, if possible. Emphasize your ability to learn and grow, and your eagerness and plan to learn this skill.
No matter which option you choose, focusing on a skill will help you answer the "Tell me about your weaknesses" question strategically.
You'll put your best foot forward in the interview, highlight your qualifications for the role, and show that you're tuned in to the employer's needs.
What interview questions do you find particularly tricky? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll tackle them in a future post.