Interviewing with job seekers

Answering the interview question: ‘What is your biggest weakness?’

‘What is your biggest weakness?’ is still a question that you will likely be asked when undertaking a job interview. It’s a question that many job seekers dread and often generates responses that leave recruiters and hiring managers in doubt. Fortunately, there are ways you can respond that will demonstrate your self- awareness and show a willingness to improve and develop your areas of weakness. Conversely, there are also answers you should avoid.

So, here are a few top pointers to help you answer this all too dreaded interview question.   

Avoid the most common answer

Ask anyone who regularly interviews candidates and they will inform you that the most common response to this question is: ‘being a perfectionist’. As a potential candidate, while this might seem like the best answer you can give, it does actually have many shortcomings that can make it an undesirable characteristic.

Nowadays, workplaces increasingly require people to be fast-paced, and being overly perfectionistic can serve to hold up projects and result in missed deadlines. This can spell trouble for businesses, seeing them lose clients or go well over budget. Perfectionist behaviour may be seen as a barrier to a person’s ability to get the job done on time or be flexible with their tasks. Any quality that may hinder an individual’s performance at work could discourage an employer from hiring you, so it’s best to avoid this answer.

Think about the other side of the coin

All weaknesses have another side to the coin – strengths. For instance, someone with a bad memory can be better at working with lists and staying organised. An individual who tends to take over in conversation could be a natural leader who is developing their listening skills. A competitive person may be a great sales professional. Recognise your weakness and then think about the strength that comes with it, and if it’s advantageous to the role you are applying for.

You want to be able to demonstrate how you’ve used this weakness to acquire a new skill or grow professionally, as opposed to letting it set you back. Talk about your previous experience in a role and the initiatives or processes in which you’ve taken to overcome or minimise your weaknesses. Be sure to always include the positives on the off chance this question does arise.

Consider your weakness in the context of the role

It is also important to consider the weakness you highlight in the context of your position. For example, it is best not to use ‘teamwork’ as a weakness if you are interviewing for a leadership position, or if the role involves working collaboratively. When responding to this question, it should be well-thought-out and appropriate to the position you’re applying for.

In any interview scenario, it’s a simple case of telling the professional truth. No one expects you to be good at everything, however, you don’t want to respond with weaknesses that will prevent you from achieving in your role – that is a sure-fire way to ensure you don’t win the position. Think carefully about the position and how the weakness you choose to voice will affect your ability to perform the role.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to best respond to interview questions, check out our Ultimate Interview Guide, which is filled with useful strategies and techniques to help you nail your next interview.