“What’s Your Weakness?”

Ah the weakness question in the job interview. It’s one of the classics isn’t it? I mean of all the things they ask you in most interviews, why is this question still being asked?

The answer is of course that the question is a good one, so you best be prepared to answer it intelligently. If the question wasn’t worthwhile, then interviewers would have stopped asking it a long time ago. So it stands to reason they are finding it useful in revealing information necessary which helps them make their decision.

Asking about an area in which you are weak gives you the opportunity to either reveal something about yourself so damaging that the interview essentially ends on the spot or it provides the chance to impress the interviewer. Revealing something damaging about yourself isn’t something I’m going to spend much time on here. Suffice to say, its fatal to say you have no flaws at all. It’s also suicidal to reveal a criminal conviction, past aggressive behaviour on the job such as assaulting a co-worker you didn’t get along with or question the interviewers intelligence in asking such a dumb question. Oh yeah, someone I know actually did that.

The smart thing to do with the question is to have thought about it long before the interview. Anticipating the question makes it less nerve-wracking and stressful when it does come up for starters. Let’s face it, when you really want the job, talking in any way about a known weakness isn’t going to be something you naturally would want to volunteer. So doing it on the spot might catch you saying something later that while honest, wasn’t the best choice.

So pull out that job posting and read what the job entails. What will you be doing in this position and have you done it before? All of it? Are there areas or perhaps a single thing you notice that you haven’t had direct experience doing or perhaps did quite a long time ago and you know things have evolved? Could be, and if so, you might find your answer to the question here. Do yourself a favour though and don’t make telling them your weakness the entirety of your answer. The impact of this is just to leave them flat and yourself painted in a negative light.

When you state your weakness follow it up by sharing both what you are doing to improve on it and how you’ve overcome such weaknesses in the past. For example if an organization uses some specific computer software that you are not familiar with, you could share this along with evidence from your past where you quickly acquired the necessary expertise to competently use industry-specific software in a previous organization. It stands to reason that if you learned software elsewhere upon accepting a previous job, you have the necessary skills and interest to learn the software this organization uses too.

The one thing you may reveal about yourself in answering this question is your attitude for learning and your acceptance of learning from others around you. Presumably you are going to get some support in this new position. Someone is going to be responsible for showing you the ropes, giving you an orientation to the job, introducing you to company policies and practices and might be assigned to have you job shadow them.

You are the new hire; the fresh blood. You are the one in the beginning who has a lot to learn, even if or when you come to a job with a great deal of experience. So while you have much to share and a good grasp of the technical skills to perform in those early days, you won’t know how the organization you are now working for goes about the work. It’s in the ‘how we do it here’ that you can best reveal a positive attitude and a willingness to learn.

Once, maybe even twice, you might get away with a, ‘this is different from when I worked at such-and-such” but keep those kind of statements to a minimum. You don’t work there anymore and this company does things a certain way for a certain reason and quite frankly you haven’t been with them long enough to know why. The bottom line is it’s good advice to respect how and organization does things in the beginning instead of second-guessing those around you and telling them about the better ways of doing things they need to know.

The weakness question in the job interview also gives you the chance to identify any training issues the company should be aware of that once known can best get you working up to full speed. If you claim to have a certain knowledge and experience at the interview but are counting on bluffing it or getting a co-worker to show you what you claimed to know, you might find yourself out of a job faster than it took you to get it.

In the here and now can you identify something that is generally needed in the jobs you are applying for that you aren’t strong in? if so, start to work on that now. Look up some training online that might be free or invest in yourself and take a course. Practice your skills and get that training on your resume so you can point to what you are doing to improve yourself in that area.    

Written By Kelly Mitchell

“What’s Your Weakness?” was originally published @ Employment Counselling with Kelly Mitchell and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by One Way Stock

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