Let’s talk weaknesses. Since everyone has them, they really shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Sort of. There’s this game that interviewers like to play with job candidates where they ask the question, “What’s your greatest weakness?” I call it a game, because you’re supposed to make yourself look the best you can but you still have to own up to being imperfect. The goal of this game is to look best at downplaying your weaknesses against other candidates.
Unfortunately, your interviewer is bound to ask this question during your job interview. And it’s completely reasonable. No candidate is absolutely perfect, and it’s only fair that your interviewer knows at least some degree of your flaws upfront. Plus, this is a good gauge for employers to see how you’ll handle responding to a difficult question.
And, no, you can’t pull a Michael Scott. No, you can’t give a cop-out weakness like “I’m not a morning person.” Or give the absolute worst response: “I have no weaknesses.”
So here’s the game plan:
- Be honest and upfront. Don’t skirt around the weakness or sugarcoat it. Just tell it like it is. If you get into a lot of detail, you might end up making your weakness look way worse than it really is.
Good Example: “I can be overly critical of myself and my work.”
Bad Example: “When I was in first grade, a classmate made fun of a story I wrote. That’s where it all started, and it’s really snowballed from there. Throughout high school, college and in my everyday life, I tend to view the work I do and myself as a whole negatively.”
- Tell a story. But not one like the aforementioned sob story. Use this question to your advantage and get creative with how you answer it. Relate it to a past experience and what lesson you learned from it. This is the start of recovering your weakness positively. Don’t throw yourself under the bus with your story!
Good Example: “At a former internship, I realized that my weakness was weighing me down because I spent so much of my time critiquing my work. So I’ve learned to put things aside once I’ve felt I’ve put adequate time into it and not be so hard on myself.”
Bad Example: “Since I am so critical of myself, I take that much longer to review my work painstakingly and therefore tend to miss deadlines.”
- Turn it around into a strength. Show the positive side of your weakness, again, positively.
Good Example: “But because I am at times very critical of my work, I have also realized how meticulous I am. This proves that I will be very attentive and careful toward the work that I do, so you can be sure that there will be little correction needed.”
Very Bad Example: “I am, however, working through it with a therapist I see on a weekly basis.”
Other examples of turning weaknesses into strengths:
Works too quickly – Efficient
Little experience – Eager to learn
Hogs workload – Willing to take on large responsibilities
Works poorly under pressure – Excellent planner
Sensitive – Appreciative toward the needs of coworkers
Get creative with your answer! Ask a friend or colleague how to transform your weakness into a strength.
To prep for that interview, you might want to consider getting some extra advice on those tricky questions. Check out our newsletter archives for more interview advice.