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How To Answer 'What are your weaknesses?'

On09/ 03 /17



“So, what are your weaknesses?” It's a frequent and often dreaded question. 

Although a little clichéd, interviewers will still ask you to outline your weaknesses. 
Why? Because how you answer this question is very telling. Your body language and tone will reveal if you're nervous or uncomfortable and give them a good idea of how you respond to pressure.

We all have weaknesses; you need to be able to answer this honestly without damaging your chances.  We can show you how.

What Not to Say 

Obviously, you're not going to admit your greatest flaws in the middle of an interview. As a result, we're often advised to choose a weakness, which isn't really a weakness. 

A common example might be "I'm too much of a perfectionist' or “I am too committed to my work”. The problem with this is that it can sound a little stilted and false.

Equally, you might be tempted to say, "I can't think of any weaknesses that would affect this role", however the interviewer will know this is not true. They will either think you're lying or that you have poor self-awareness.

However, never admit a weakness that could affect your ability to do the job. E.g. – “I find timekeeping a problem" or "I'm not good at meeting deadlines”. Do this and you really will dent your chances of interview success.

What To Say 

To answer, “What are your weaknesses” authentically, you need to find a real weakness, which won’t get in the way of the role. We all have a variety of weaknesses, and these are bound to include some that could be aired in an interview situation.

You should explain your weakness succinctly without going into a huge amount of detail. You want to remain positive in tone at all times and avoid sounding overly defensive. The weaknesses you choose also needs to be something that could be improved with time and attention.

E.g. If you’re a data analyst and get nervous when public speaking, this may not be a problem unless you need to present your results in meetings. It is also something you could work on by gaining practice and exposure and gradually becoming more comfortable.

In your answer, you need to explain how you are working on the issue. e.g. “I have attended training” or “I've been prioritising this to get more exposure in my day to day”. Remember, this is an opportunity to show your motivation to be the very best you can be in your role.

Tying it All Together

The following examples show you how you can answer this question, incorporating this approach.

1. Delegation - "I find it hard to delegate as I often think it will be easier and quicker for me to do the job myself. However, I’ve recognised that this is not a strategy for the long-term. To address this, I decided to attend some management training to improve my skills. Secondly, I have made delegation a priority in my day to day and I am now starting to see the benefits”. 

2. Public Speaking " I used to be nervous speaking in public, even though I have no problem contributing to meetings. It was mainly because I lacked practical experience. By making this a priority, I have gained confidence. I have attended training and even volunteered to speak at several events. I have recently had some great successes in presenting and continue to work on my skills.”

A Checklist

When answering, “what are your weaknesses”, keep the following points in mind. 

1. Be authentic and identify a genuine weakness.

2. Explain the weakness succinctly

3. Show how you are addressing the weaknesses

4. Illustrate your motivation to learn and improve

If you are looking for further interview advice, why not have a look at our CV and interview area? We will be answering a new interview question each month. You can also view our answer to last month’s question “tell me about yourself” on our blog.

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