How to ace your interview: What are your weaknesses?

Ace the interview question on what are your weaknesses

Imagine this: You are sitting in an interview for your dream job and the interviewer asks, “What are your weaknesses?”

I know what you want to say – I KNOW what you want to say:

“I’m a perfectionist…”

“I’m a workaholic! I work so hard and get absolutely no time for leisure or recreation”

Be assured, if you try to pull off this stunt, you’ve left the interviewer quite underwhelmed. Think about it, when the interviewer asked you about your strengths, you mentioned your strengths. And now that he or she is asking you for weaknesses, you have once again, somehow, forced down another (presumed) strength. The interviewer has probably heard such cliched responses a hundred times and is either sick of it, or knows it is ingenuine. So how should you deal with the “Tell me about your weakness” question in an interview? Read this interview guide.

The job interview process can carry a lot of emotions; it elicits a feeling of anxiety and anticipation. One question that is almost always asked in an interview and often catches candidates off guard is, “What are your weaknesses?” Frequently, candidates become defensive and hence churn out ingenuine responses, which the interviewer sees right through.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the rationale for asking this question from the interviewers’ perspective. The interviewer isn’t interested in understanding your current weaknesses; he or she isn’t asking what you’re awful at. He or she is simply trying to understand your approach towards your weaknesses. All he or she is asking for is an area of improvement, and is trying to understand your willingness to bring about that improvement. Therefore, it is essential to approach this question with authenticity and demonstrate self-awareness, rather than resorting to clichéd responses.
In this article, we will explore the most effective way to tackle this question, emphasizing the importance of providing a genuine weakness and showcasing your proactive approach to personal growth and development.

Understanding the Intent: Beyond the Perfectionist Trap:

During an interview, when faced with the question “What are your weaknesses?” many candidates tend to respond with the overused answer, “I’m a perfectionist…,” or “I’m a workaholic.” While this may seem like a safe option, it doesn’t effectively address the interviewer’s underlying question. Hiring managers are seeking insight into your ability to self-reflect, acknowledge areas for improvement, and demonstrate a willingness to evolve. Therefore, it’s essential to move beyond the common pitfalls and present a genuine response.

Selecting a Genuine Weakness: The Power of Self-Awareness:

To answer this question effectively, it is crucial to identify a real weakness (or put differently; a genuine area of improvement) that you have recognized in yourself. Take some time to reflect on your professional journey and consider areas that are relevant to the job you are applying to, or skills that you genuinely want to enhance. By selecting a genuine weakness, you display honesty and self-awareness, and an ambition for continued personal development, all of which are highly valued traits at workplaces.

Supporting with Specific Examples: Showcasing a Growth Mindset:

Once you have identified a weakness, you must now back it with ways in which you are trying to overcome that shortcoming or weakness. Ideally, you should give a specific example that highlights your efforts for self-improvement. Discuss a situation where this weakness was evident and explain how you recognized it as an area of improvement. By sharing a concrete example, you not only showcase self-awareness but are also providing a context for it.

For instance, let’s say you have identified public speaking as a weakness. You can provide an example of a time when you had to give a presentation and struggled with nerves or organization. This demonstrates your ability to self-reflect & recognize areas of improvement and establishes a relationship of trust with the interviewer.

Demonstrating Proactive Measures: Taking Steps Towards Improvement:

As aforementioned, merely acknowledging a weakness is not enough. The interviewer wants to know how you are actively working on overcoming it. Elaborate on the steps you have taken or are currently taking to address this weakness. Discuss any courses, training programs, or professional development initiatives you have pursued or plan to pursue. By showcasing your willingness to invest time and effort in self-improvement, you highlight your commitment to for continued growth and development. Striving for excellence is a highly valued trait at organizations, and demonstrating the ambition to work and overcome your weaknesses will make a highly positive impact on the interview. 

Continuing with the previous example of public speaking, you can mention that you have enrolled in a public speaking course to enhance your communication skills, or have started to actively participate in group discussions which have increased your confidence to speak and share your ideas in front of a larger audience. Share how these initiatives have helped you grow in confidence and have improved your presentation abilities. By discussing specific actions you have taken, you demonstrate your proactive approach to self-improvement.

Emphasizing Continuous Learning: A Growth Mindset in Action:

When addressing your weakness, make sure to emphasize your dedication to continuous learning and improvement. Talk about your appetite for new challenges and your eagerness to acquire new skills. Highlight the instances where you have embraced feedback and used it as an opportunity to grow. By showcasing your growth mindset, you demonstrate a forward-thinking approach that aligns with the expectations of all potential employers.

For instance, in the context of public speaking, you can mention that you actively seek opportunities to present in front of others to gain more experience. Additionally, discuss any books, podcasts, or workshops you have explored to expand your knowledge in this area. By demonstrating your commitment to continuous learning, you showcase your enthusiasm for professional development.

Conclusion: what are your weaknesses?

To conclude, the question “What are your weaknesses?” should always be thought of as a valuable opportunity to showcase your self-awareness, and your ability to self-reflect and overcome any shortcomings. Instead of thinking of it as a weakness, think of it as an “area of improvement,” and your approach towards this question will change fundamentally. This will allow you to be more honest, and expressive and therefore, be able to make a positive mark on the interviewer.

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