What are your weaknesses?
When will this question be asked?
About three quarters of the way through the interview, after they have had a chance to listen to why you think you’re the ideal candidate, many employers will ask you to identify some weaknesses you feel you have. You should be feeling pretty comfortable by this stage and it’s important not to let this question catch you off guard.
Why is this question asked?
The first thing to remember is that they’re not trying to catch you out or make yourself come across as unemployable. Knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths for employees as it enables you to develop your skills or delegate responsibility where required.
All companies have training and development programmes and your interview will want to get an idea of which courses might be suitable for you if you were to become part of their workforce.
How can you prepare for this question?
Looking at yourself critically isn’t an easy process, nor is getting somebody else to suggest areas where you could improve. Unfortunately these are the two things you must do in order to prepare a good response.
Think about times at work when you weren’t overly happy about something you worked on or consider the parts of your job you look to avoid or delay. We tend to enjoy doing things we’re good at so there might be some good lessons to be learnt by checking the unactioned emails in your inbox.
Ask you colleagues of your previous boss about your weaknesses, and don’t be too disheartened when they tell you. We all need to improve on a constant basis and it’s a good exercise to ask this whether you’re job hunting or not.
What does the interviewer want to hear?
A flat out denial of any weaknesses is unlikely to impress your interviewer. As much as we’d all like to be flawless, it’s impossible for you to be perfect at everything so never say “I don’t have any weaknesses”.
There are many clichéd answers to the weaknesses question such as “I have a tendency to work too hard.” Although many candidates see this as a way of offering one of their strengths as a weakness, this isn’t a real answer to the question and you’re likely to be asked for another weakness.
Many candidates try to dodge the question with a jokey answer, such as “white wine” or “chocolate”. You may raise a slight chuckle, but you should also be prepared with a genuine answer.
You also want to avoid any areas that are crucial to the role. If you’re going for an accountancy role but offer up “maths” as a weakness then it’s unlikely that you will get past the interview stage. You also don’t want to say anything around areas of punctuality or reliability for obvious reasons.
Ideally you want to pick a weakness that you’ve made positive measures to improve, such as:
“I’ve always felt my touch-typing speed could be improved. I have taken various training courses which have helped me improve from 30 to 40 words per minute, but I have a desire to get up to 60 words per minute to help me become more effective and efficient.
This type of answer clearly shows the interviewer an area where you’d like to improve (and an opportunity for them to help you do so) without really damaging the attractiveness of your application.
What follow up questions might there be?
If you haven’t mentioned it already, your interviewer may ask you if there’s any steps you have taken to help you overcome your weaknesses. They may also want to know how you think this weakness may affect your ability to do the job. This is a much harder question to answer as it’s directly offering you a chance to ruin your application. This makes the choice you make about the weakness you quote even more important.