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"What's Your Biggest Weakness?" Five Great Answers to a Tough Interview Question

Jul 23, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

It’s a question just about every interviewer will ask you—and these days, it’s not enough to say “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a workaholic.” Employers have heard these positive answers masquerading as weaknesses before, and if you give one, they’ll probably assume you’re not being up-front with them.

Interviewers want to hear something that will give them insight into what kind of worker you are, and any potential problems they might face in bringing you on—but they also want to hear about how you’ve worked to overcome that weakness. The right answer will depend on you and what your real weaknesses are—but here are a few ideas.

You’re impatient

It’s a good answer, because it’s a minor weakness—and it usually indicates a driven personality. When you use this one, however, be careful not to make it look like you’re a prima donna or difficult to work with. Spin it to show that you’re aware of this weakness and you’re working on it—or tell an interesting story, if you can, about how your sense of impatience was what
drove a project to success in a previous job. 

Interview

Everyone dreads the “what is your weakness?” question. But it doesn’t have to trip you up—and if you play it right, it can be an opportunity to sell yourself.

 

 

Time management is difficult for you

This can be a good answer because it indicates that you’re dedicated to the job and take on a lot of responsibility—you’re the one who steps in to take on more work when needed. However, time management issues can also be a problem in the workplace—so if you use this one, be sure to emphasize how you’ve learned to overcome your problems with it. The story you tell here should be about how you improved your time management skills to handle multiple projects or a large workload when a previous employer needed you to.

Address a weak spot in your resume

Sometimes the question gives you an opportunity to talk about something you know the interviewer is already thinking. For example, if you’re just coming back to the workforce now after a year of unemployment, you could state that your biggest weakness may be that gap—but that you’ve been consistently working to stay on top of industry trends while you’ve been out of work. Or, if you’re missing key experiences or skills they require at this job, address that—but use the opportunity to show how your prior experience provides transferable skills or maybe even gives you an edge over others, such as additional skills gained from online grant writing courses.

You get too attached to a project

This one is basically the same as saying you’re a perfectionist—but it’s less common, and may not set off the same red flags in the interviewer’s mind. If you’re using this response, be sure to focus on your dedication to doing the job right—not just doing the minimum of what’s expected. Answer this question right, and you could show that you’re a perfect fit for a detail-oriented position in a fast-paced environment.

You used to have a fear of public speaking

Note the judicious inclusion of “used to” here. If you can answer this question by talking about a weakness you once had but have since overcome, it will definitely make you look good. Public speaking is a good one to use because it’s difficult for most people—chances are your interviewer has struggled with it as well, or knows a lot of people who have. You don’t want to show yourself as terrified of public speaking now, though, especially if you’re going into a leadership role—you want them to believe you can project confidence. Showing how you overcame your fear of public speaking will allow you to talk about a relatable fear—and emphasize how you overcame it, not how it’s still a problem for you. 

Everyone dreads the “what is your weakness?” question. But it doesn’t have to trip you up—and if you play it right, it can be an opportunity to sell yourself. Think carefully about your answer, and choose one that’s true to you—and that demonstrates self-awareness and a sense of proactiveness in overcoming that weakness—and you’re more likely to make a good impression.

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