What are your weaknesses? Examples to approach this question in a job interview
Even if many companies are moving to other interview techniques such as behavioral based or experiential interviewing, you might still be asked the “classics” about strengths and weaknesses. There seems to be a lot of insecurity on how to answer the question “What are your weaknesses” especially amongst women. We don’t want to appear weak. We want to be perceived as competent, confident and strong. So we are often insecure about how to answer this particular question.
Why do you want to know about my weaknesses?
The reason why employers are asking this question is not to embarrass you and dig up your failures. They really want to find out if you are able to reflect about yourself, your behavior, your habits and learn something from it.
To prepare for this question, sit down and think which job related weakness you could highlight. Unfortunately some of us women have an easy time dwelling on our weaknesses and beating ourselves up for what we can’t do rather than focusing on our strengths. So don’t spend too much time dwelling on your weaknesses. Try to look at them objectively and identify which is or are most relevant in a professional context.
Avoid jokes like “I have a weakness for chocolate”. This joke is so old, it doesn’t even remotely amuse the employer. Furthermore it gives the impression that you’re not able to reflect about the things you don’t do well. If you’re not able to reflect about them, how will you be able to avoid falling into patterns dictated by these weaknesses which could have a negative impact on the business?
The important thing is to pick one weakness, max. two, and to give some concrete context when and how this weakness materializes in your life and how you deal with it. Avoid enumerating all possible weaknesses that come to your mind. If you just go on and on about your weaknesses, the employer might get the impression that you don’t have a lot of confidence or self esteem.
Spin it around
When I was last asked this question, I answered: “I sometimes get easily stressed if several people want something from me at the same time. This stresses me because I want to do a great job, deliver good quality and not keep people waiting. Luckily I’ve learned over the years that not everything is as urgent or important as others perceive it. I learned to prioritize what is really urgent and important and requires my immediate attention. Thanks to my good relationships with my coworkers, I’m able to let them know in a kind way that I can’t prioritize their task right now but I’ll get to it as soon as I can.”
See what I did there? I identified the weakness, I put it into context and told them how I learned to handle situations in which I feel the weakness is taking over. Not only did I show the employer that I can reflect about my weaknesses, I also showed them that I’m able to learn and improve. Now the employer knows that my weakness won’t impact my performance because I found a way to deal with it.
Finally I casually slipped in one of my strengths: building good relationships with my coworkers. This anticipates the strengths question which often follows or precedes the weaknesses question and finishes the example on a positive note.
If asked “what are your weaknesses”, examples like this one are really good. So take some time before the interview to prepare at least one good example. If you’re still in doubt regarding how to deal with this, reach out to me and we’ll work together to find a good example based on your experience so far.