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How to Handle the Weakness Question

How do you handle it when an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses?  Do you break into a cold sweat?  Do you start chattering about how you are a hard worker and you do everything perfectly and that is your weakness?  There is a better way to answer that question without giving the employer a reason not to hire you.   

Genuinely answer the question.  Consider this question from the employer's point of view.  They know that you are not going to give them a reason not to hire you.  So why would they ask you this question?  Likely, the employer is trying to get to know you better.  They want to see if you are self-aware and if you are honest.  For this reason, it is important that you don't sidestep the question by claiming that you don't have any weaknesses or by listing a weakness that everyone knows is actually a strength.

Choose a weakness that will not impact your ability to do the job.  When selecting the weakness that you are going to use, try to find something unrelated to your job responsibilities.  For example, if you are trying to get a job in customer service, you wouldn't want to tell the interviewer that you are overly sensitive.  Instead, you might say that while you would be competent enough to use the technology required for this job, you would like to improve upon your computer skills.  

Outline the steps that you are taking to overcome your weakness.  Whenever you mention a weakness to employers, you always want to explain the steps that you have taken to overcome it.  This approach makes you look proactive and mitigates any concerns that the employer might have after you tell them your weakness.  For example, if your weakness is that you are not good with numbers, you could mention that you are taking a beginner's accounting class and that you are becoming more comfortable with math.      

Don't forget that it's a job interview.  You are not speaking to your mother or your priest.  It is not appropriate for you to reveal your deepest secrets.  Don't tell the employer that you hate working with people or that you stole a chocolate bar when you were thirteen.  The employer likely won't know what to do with your disclosures and it could even cost you the job.

Have a few weakness answers ready.  Employers know that you will be expecting this question and that you will likely have an answer prepared.  However, they might try to catch you off guard by asking for more than one weakness.  While this could give them a better insight into your genuine weaknesses since you could be scrambling to come up with something on the spot, it is a situation that you want to avoid.  If you have three weaknesses prepared, you should be ready for any question they throw at you.   

Sometimes the difference between a good interview and a great interview is actually practicing the interview questions.  It isn't enough to know what you are going to say; have someone ask you the questions and practice delivering the answers.  This exercise can help you identify any problems with your answers and it will make you sound more smooth and confident.  With proper preparation, the weakness question can actually make you a more appealing candidate.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by rawpixel.com)