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Career Corner: What is Your Biggest Weakness?

– Courtesy photo

By Angela Copeland

One of the favorite interview questions of hiring managers continues to be, “What is your biggest weakness?” This is a tough question all the way around. If you are too honest, you may eliminate yourself from consideration and not get the job at all. But, if you’re not honest enough, you may come across as evasive.

So, what can you do when you’re asked this question during a job interview?

The very first thing to do is prepare. There’s a good chance you will be asked this question, so think about it in advance. Write down how you might answer the question, and practice your answer. Share your thoughts with a friend (or two), and get feedback. Find out what you could do better, and put time into perfecting your response.

Don’t give an answer that is truly critical to the job. For example, if you are interviewing to be a project manager, don’t confess that you struggle with organization and are often late on deadlines. These qualities are key to succeeding as a project manager and would immediately eliminate you from consideration. 

On the other extreme, don’t give an answer that is not genuine. Many job seekers tend to give answers along the lines of, “I just work so hard. I can’t stop myself.” Or, “I’m such an overachiever and I have high expectations of those around me.” These answers come across as not being authentic, and no hiring manager will want to hear them.

Instead, I like to think of this question as an opportunity to address the elephant in the room (assuming there is one). For example, I was once asked to consider a part time coaching role with a large organization. During the job interview, the hiring manager asked me, “What is your biggest weakness?”

This was my response. “As you know, I don’t come from a human resources background, like many coaches do. That may be considered a weakness in comparison. However, I have extensive corporate experience in many industries and many job functions – from engineering to marketing. I have interviewed for many different roles myself, and I’m able to bring my own authentic experience to the table to help job seekers do their best.”

In this case, my hiring manager already knew that I had not worked in human resources. It was clear from my resume. She was probably trying to decide whether or not this difference in my background was a problem. Because I brought the issue up directly, I was able to put it to rest quickly. It also gave me a chance to explain why my own unique experience would be an asset to the organization, and might even give me a leg up on my competition. My answer worked well and created space to talk openly about my background.

There’s no one right way to answer this question. In order to give your best answer, prepare in advance. It will allow you to turn your potential weakness into a perceived strength.

November 22, 2017

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