"So tell me about your weaknesses."
"What are your areas of improvement that need to be worked on?”
"Describe a time where you made a mistake in a previous role… how did you handle that situation?"
Did you feel your heart rate go up just by reading those questions? Rest assured, you aren’t the only one. It is common to feel caught off guard or overwhelmed by questions like those. Interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking and talking about yourself isn’t always easy.
The best way to handle this is to:
a) Shift your mindset, and
Interviews make us nervous because we want to put our best foot forward and make the most of an opportunity, and really that’s something to be excited about! Remember that if you’ve made it to the interview stage you have already surpassed a lot of other candidates, which means that the employer likes what they have seen and are eager to find out more. Use that as a little confidence boost prior to your interview. They want you to be there just as much as you do!
Now back to the weaknesses question. The best way to interpret this is to look at it as a way to show your employer that you have the ability to self-reflect, acknowledge what you need to work on and that you are taking the steps to improve on it. It shows resilience and humanity – we all have the ability to progress and improve and that is a positive thing.
So when asked about your greatest weaknesses, interpret it as “What are your greatest personal/technical achievements?”. This is your opportunity to explain how you have already or are currently trying to overcome something and how you drive and reflective nature is in fact strengths to your character.
So once you’ve shifted your mindset, the next step is to prepare. Always prepare answers ahead of time to reduce anxiety, stress and the feeling of being flustered. Consider these tips when answering a question regarding weaknesses:
When answering this question, start on a positive note. For example, if your weakness is that you are shy, you could say – “I consider myself an extravert around friends and family, but when I enter a new environment, I have a tendency to withdraw a little.”
Now that you have acknowledged your weakness, show how you are taking steps to overcome it. For example – “In order to overcome my shyness, I give myself a little challenge to try and converse with everyone in my new team throughout my first week.”
To end your answer to this question, it is good to once again finish on a positive note and show that you are currently managing your weakness so that it won’t raise any concern for your employer. To end, say – “I find that by building a little rapport with my new team I become settled in and comfortable quite quickly and am back to being my naturally outgoing self."
The weakness you provide can be either a personal weakness or a technical weakness. The great thing about using technical weaknesses is that they can generally be improved more easily than personal ones.
When an employer is interviewing you, they are also assessing your personality and whether you will be a good cultural fit for the team, so be careful when deciding which personal attributes you may highlight as weaknesses.
Answer this question with enthusiasm and positivity to show an employer that you have a great, resilient attitude.
Using a weakness that is directly related to the role you are applying for. For example, If you are applying for a data entry role, it is best to avoid highlighting weaknesses like typing speed and excel skills as they are both important strengths needed for that role.
Do not say “I have none” or “I don’t know” as this shows a lack of ability to self-reflect and lack of preparation. Everyone always has something to improve on, so you should always be able to provide an answer.
Trying to turn a strength into a weakness can come across a little insincere. Before saying phrases like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I’m too punctual”, think to yourself, is there really any downside to being extra attentive? Or showing up early? If they sound more like strengths, list them as strengths.
It can be quite a daunting experience to talk to a prospective employer about your weaknesses. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be. If you use the time you have wisely to prepare before your interview and get yourself into a positive headspace, you’ll find that you are more than capable of answering these questions with confidence. So next time you land an interview and your nerves start to kick in, take a deep breath, prepare, and remember that your ability to recognise your weaknesses is truly one of your greatest strengths.
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