What is your weakness?

Posted On May 15,2019

Hiring managers say that when they ask this question, they know that the candidate has prepared a word-perfect answer and memorised it. The most common among them is “I don’t have a weakness.” Though, this might sound like the perfect answer, you and they both know that it only works in a Bollywood movie.

So what is an acceptable answer, or even an impressive answer to this question? Before this question is answered, let us agree on what is not an acceptable answer.

1. “I’m not a team player.” – This answer will surely take you out of the running. No matter how well you perform at your job, if you are not great at team work, do not announce this at the interview. In spite of your exceptional skills, no manager wants a team member who cannot gel with his or her team. 

2. “I cannot think of a weakness that I have” – This shows a lack of self awareness. Whether you like it or not, you do have a weakness or weaknesses. In an interview, your aim is to not only paint yourself in a good light, but also to show that you can adapt and learn new skills. Hence, it is essential to portray a behavioural weakness which you were able to modify or working on to improve.

3. “I’m a workaholic.” – This might sound like something an employer would love to hear, however, it can actually be counterproductive. Being a workaholic not only indicates your enthusiasm to work but also your inability to prioritise and organize your work. This would not sit well with your interviewers.
An alternative is to use a phrase like ‘I’m passionate about my work and sometimes I can get carried away with work.’

4. Choosing an irrelevant weakness – Though this might seem like a safe way to dodge the bullet, your interviewers might not think so. Giving an irrelevant example like ‘I’m addicted to playing Tennis.’ can signal that you have not taken this question seriously.
Your skill here would be to cloak your weakness in a manner that would show you as the right candidate for the job.

For Instance – ‘I’m an avid Tennis player and I use all my free time to hone my skills in this game. Though it is not part of my work, the knowledge and insight I have gained from this is immense. I have learned focus, determination and technique can quickly turn a bad player into a good one. Additionally, this activity helps me stay healthy and stress free.’

How to answer this question?

There are two optimal ways to formulate an answer.

1. Disguise a strength as your weakness
2. Present a current strength which is a recovered weakness.

Disguise strength as your weakness
The best way to orchestrate this answer is in two parts
(1) To confess your weakness (which is in fact a strength that is taken too far)
(2) Make a recovery by turning that into a positive.

For example: If you state your weakness to be being impatient, recover the positive by saying that you have learned to redirect the impatience into prioritising and coordination.
“I am very impatient when it comes to work and I always want things to be done immediately without any delay. But I have realised that people at work have different priorities and they all might not match, so I have started to prioritise my work and list the top 5 things to get done daily, and share it with my team and manager. This way everyone is aware of the important tasks and it is easier to coordinate among the team. Additionally it has helped me build better relationships at work.”

Present a current strength which is a recovered weakness.

Using a characteristic which was a weakness in the past and showing how you have evolved and converted it into strength is a very attractive way to answer this question.
Choose a mild weakness like - critical, worrier, unrealistic etc, which could be carefully transformed into one of your current strengths.

For example: “I was a worrier before and I would waste precious time worrying about the outcome of a project. But, over the years, I have seen that worrying is a futile activity and it builds unwanted stress not only for myself but also for my team. I have since devised a method that is far more helpful. When I start to worry, I write down the cause and the effect of my worry and have noted that frequently I am able to foresee a problem before it happens and am able to anticipate and execute a solution for the same.”

Be careful when you use a weakness to convert, that it is not too critical a character. You do not want to be caught up in an explanation from which you cannot untangle yourself.

Ultimately, understand why question has been put to you. The interview panel is trying to understand your personality which does not show up in your resume. It is also an opportunity for you to show how well you can turn a loss into a win. By commenting on your weakness you are indicating your lack of ego, self awareness, and your resourcefulness to convert a negative into a positive.

Author - Sindhya KH, Mentor at Skill Prodigy

What is the one thing that is holding you back from achieving your goals? Send us your comments, queries, and feedback at contact@skillprodigy.com.

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