One of the most daunting questions professionals face during an interview is, “What is your greatest weakness?” Often, it feels a bit like a trap, as admitting to one’s shortcomings could cause them to miss out on the job.
However, if you answer it properly, your response to “What is your greatest weakness?” can put you ahead of the pack. If you want to know how to tackle this devilish question, here are some tips that can help.
Don’t Masquerade a Strength as a Weakness
First and foremost, you can’t fool a hiring manager by masquerading a strength as a weakness. For example, lamenting that perfectionist tendencies are a problem isn’t just cliché, it also reads as disingenuous. This is especially true if you can’t provide an example as to when that issue genuinely held you back.
Instead, it would be best if you made sure that anything you discuss actually comes across as a weakness. Additionally, honesty is a must. If your reply doesn’t come across as authentic, the hiring manager may assume that you are trying to pull one over on them, and that won’t play in your favor when it comes time to choose a candidate.
But Choose the Right Weakness
Most people have at least a few areas where they could improve. However, you need to be strategic when you choose one to highlight during an interview.
Preferably, you want to avoid any skills or traits that are critical for the job. For example, if you are a scientific candidate, saying you lack organizational skills or have trouble with attention-to-detail isn’t a wise choice. Those are likely fundamental to the role, so saying they are a weakness dramatically increases your likelihood of being passed over.
Instead, pick a skill that could be work-related, but isn’t part of your core responsibilities. That way, your response seems relevant and appropriate without being too much of a hindrance.
Be Honest, But Ready to Pivot
Answering “What is your greatest weakness?” well means not just listing a trait or skill area that needs improvement. If you use that approach, all you do is highlight a shortcoming, which isn’t ideal.
Ideally, you want to quickly touch on the weakness and then pivot, turning the discussion toward how you work to ensure it doesn’t hold you back or how you are actively improving now.
For example, if you struggle with giving presentations because you lack confidence or don’t have the strongest verbal communication skills, admit it. Then, you could discuss the steps you are taking to get better. For example, you might join Toastmasters International, sign up for a public speaking course at a local college, or get on stage at an area open mic night to hone your capabilities.
In some cases, you could also discuss your willingness to learn. This can be ideal for entry-level jobs where candidates aren’t necessarily expected to know it all.
Ultimately, by using the tips above, you can answer, “What is your greatest weakness?” honestly yet tactfully.
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