The Weakness Interview Question

Some love its predictability, some get agitated by its intended use against them, but like it not, you may find yourself asked some version of the question requesting you expose a weakness of yours in a job interview. At that point, the clock starts ticking and you need to answer the question with intelligence and honesty. Will your answer cost you the job you want or work in your favour?

One thing to realize and consciously admit is that you like every other person on the planet have weaknesses; that’s weaknesses as in plural. No one is immune to having areas they can improve in and we all have flaws. The real issue therefore is not deciding whether to reveal a flaw or not, but which weakness to disclose that won’t cost you a legitimate shot at the job and terminate the interview.

The good news of course is that you are entirely in control of what comes out of your mouth. There is no obligation to reveal the deepest, darkest character flaw you have, or the one missing thing the job posting calls for that is an essential component of the job. Yes, you’re in 100% control of what you opt to share and what you choose to remain silent about.

No matter what you choose to reveal and share, something you should really never do is reveal the weakness alone and stop talking. So for example, never answer the question saying very succinctly, “My weakness is that I don’t have any experience using the computer software noted in the job posting.” While this may very well be the case, the speaker has left the answer on a negative note, and missed a fantastic opportunity.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about everyone having weaknesses? What differentiates some people from others is what they are doing to eliminate the weakness, even possibly turning that weakness into a strength. While one person may not be actually doing anything to learn the software the company uses, another applicant might answer, “My weakness is that as my previous employers haven’t required the software your organization uses, it wasn’t a requirement for me to learn. However, I’d like you to be aware that I’ve demonstrated my ability to quickly learn the company-specific software in each of my previous two positions, and I have been doing some online individual learning to grasp the basics of the software you do use. From what I’ve found, it has some similarities to other accounting software I have used and mastered.”

The  answer above to the same weaknesses question, doesn’t end on a negative note. There is still the assertion that the computer software is an area of weakness yes, but the person has limited the potential damage of that fact by demonstrating some initiative to learn it, and referenced 2 situations in which they didn’t initially know other software but picked it up quickly. They even concluded with the word, “mastered”. This could be verified by contact the previous employer, and the interviewer is left with a different perception of the person.

From the interviewers perspective, applicant one doesn’t know the software and that’s a job requirement. Applicant two doesn’t know the software as much as they will need to, but they have demonstrated the positive quality of initiative in doing some research into it, and they have highlighted another desirable trait, (they learn quickly) that would reduce the training period.

So it is not a situation where you reveal a weakness and none of your competition will, hence exposing you as the weakest applicant. No, it’s more a situation where you declare your weakness and then go on to demonstrate what you are doing about that weakness so that it doesn’t remain a weakness in the future.

Another example? Suppose you don’t have your driver’s licence. Every single human on the planet who has a driver’s licence now didn’t at one point. What they did do was study what they needed to do to pass and then either took driver training or went right to the driver’s test. If they failed, they did it again. Whether they got it the first time or not, they took action and now have that driver’s licence in their pocket.

If someone doesn’t have their licence to drive and is doing nothing about it at all, the lack of a driver’s licence isn’t the only weakness they are revealing. A second weakness has just been unknowingly shared which, without any pun originally intended – is a lack of personal drive!

There are critical weaknesses such as a person applying for teaching position in a school board without a teaching certificate. All the personality in the world won’t get you in where there is a competition. Some weaknesses are less damaging, such as one’s ignorance of the company’s specific policies and procedures; procedures only an employee of that company would be expected to know. Once again, you would be wise to indicate that you also didn’t know the policies and procedures in your last employment at one time either, but you picked that information up quickly and adhered to them.

So, choose what you reveal carefully. State what you are doing to either eliminate the weakness altogether or turn it into a strength. Under no circumstances should you ever tell an interviewer you have no weaknesses. That statement shows arrogance or ignorance; both highly undesirable.    

Written By Kelly Mitchell

The Weakness Interview Question was originally published @ myjobadvice and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by Alan Cleaver


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