How to answer the weakness question?
“Dear Pete: I’ve got a job interview in a few days. Can you tell me how to answer the weakness question? I never know what to say when employers ask about my weaknesses.”
Everyone hates to answer the weakness question, but you should LOVE it!
Most candidates butcher their chances of getting hired by how they answer this potentially deadly question. When you answer it confidently and competently, you can really differentiate yourself from the competition.
Before we discuss how to answer the weakness question, you need to understand why employers ask this question. In general, they want to see how you respond under pressure and they want to see if you’ll actually give them a reason not to hire you. Don’t take the bait!
When asked the weakness question, I recommend that you use my unique, 3-step technique called “The Humor-Sandwich-Flip.”
- Step 1 (Humor): Start your answer with some self-deprecating humor and find a playful, yet professional way to poke fun at yourself. When delivered with a genuine smile, this is very effective. It relaxes the atmosphere for you and the interviewer and shows that you do not take yourself too seriously.
- Step 2 (Sandwich): Discuss a weakness not relevant to the traits, knowledge, or skills needed for success in the position, but sandwich this weakness in between a discussion of your relevant strengths.
- Step 3 (Flip): End your response by flipping the question back to the interviewer by casually asking about the organization’s weaknesses.
Here is a word-for-word example of how I could answer the weakness question if I was interviewing for a sales position. You can adjust this script accordingly based on your style, your background, and the job you are applying for:
Question from interviewer: “Pete, What is your greatest weakness?”
Sample Answer: “Well, my jump shot is not what it used to be… (Smile, pause). Seriously though… One of my biggest strengths is my strong persuasion skills, as proven by my 3-time #1 ranking in the sales department for the NBA’s Washington Wizards. However, one area I am trying to improve is my knowledge of how to leverage Twitter as a communication tool. I have been reading ABC Book to learn more about that topic. Having said that, my strong persuasion skills are a main reason why I could increase this department’s revenue from day 1, just like I did while working in the NBA. Since we’re talking openly about weaknesses… what do you think is XYZ Company’s greatest weakness?”
Let’s break this down real fast:
- Step 1: The humor is effective given my background working for an NBA franchise earlier in my career and since I was a college athlete. (It’s also unfortunately true!)
- Step 2: The “sandwich” works well because I have reminded the interviewer that I have a key skill needed in the job. I’ve also highlighted an achievement which serves as evidence for this skill. Lastly, my weakness is not going to prevent me from doing the job, and I’ve mentioned how I’m addressing it anyway.
- Step 3: Finally, the “flip” works well because I’ve asked it in a casual, matter-of-fact fashion. I’ve also taken the focus off my weaknesses and asked a question that lets the employer sweat for a second. Having the guts to ask the employer about their weaknesses (they are not perfect either) indicates that you are evaluating them as well. There’s a powerful implication that you have other options when you ask a question like that while you’re on the “hot seat.”
Here are some other tips to keep in mind on how to answer the weakness question:
- Maintain confident body language. How you respond to this question (i.e. your eye contact, posture, gestures, etc.) is often more important than the words that actually come out of your mouth.
- Be concise. Answer this question in 30-60 seconds max. Rambling can be very dangerous when answering the weakness question.
- Never mention interpersonal weaknesses (i.e. “I don’t get along well with people who _____”).
- Don’t say that you have “no weaknesses” (sorry… you do!) or that you’re not sure what your weaknesses are.
- Don’t improvise your answer to the weakness question. This is one question you definitely want to practice answering before any interview. It’s amazing what some people say when they improvise their answer to this question.
I hope this article helps you answer the weakness question!
P.S. Having trouble designing your resume or landing interviews and job offers with your current resume? If so, email your current resume (and a job description for a position you are interested in) to resume [at] DreamJobAcademy [dot] com. Each week, I provide FREE resume reviews (confidentially) for randomly selected job-seekers!