Vincy Workplace
June 20, 2008
What are your weaknesses?

During a recent coaching session, I asked a client who was preparing for a job interview, “What would you say are your weaknesses?” The client looked across the table and quickly answered, “I don’t have any weaknesses!” I was a little taken aback, but that honest response revealed we had a lot of work to do before that person was ready to sell themselves to a potential employer.{{more}}

This question is a typical one, but it may actually leave many of you unsure what to say. Let me assure you that this not a trick question. What you should be wondering is, “What are they looking for?” and “Exactly how do I answer such a question?”

Primarily, what the interviewer is looking to see is how conscious you are of professional areas in which you might need to improve or grow. If you say you have “no” weaknesses, you will appear to be an arrogant perfectionist-a red flag to most interviewers. Of course, this is not the time to be an open book and reveal every bit of knowledge that you don’t know, either! Both extremes could eliminate you from the interview process altogether. Likewise, the following responses will also be apt to take you out of the running for most positions:

  -  Saying you have a problem being on time will lead the interviewer to suspect you are not dependable.
  -  Admitting you have anger “issues” is another red flag as no one wants a hot-tempered individual in the workplace.

These are definitely weaknesses, but you must think carefully about what you say.

So, what can you say?

Be truthful; but remember that the key to answering this question is being able to state not only the weakness but what you are doing (or going to do) to fix the weakness.

For example, maybe you really are a perfectionist (though not necessarily the arrogant one we already mentioned). If so, and you foresee that as a problem for the position, then you can say something similar to, “I have a tendency to want everything to be perfect, and yet I know that is not possible all the time; so, I make an effort to get a second opinion from a colleague when I have a doubt. That way, I do not spend too much time redoing my work in an effort to get it perfect.” Remember to think carefully, though: that answer will only work if the job will allow you to interact with colleagues for help and then, only if it also allows time for that interaction. If you will be working alone most of the time or on rushed deadlines, this will not work-you must be familiar with the job description and situation first (but that’s a topic for another day).

As another example, maybe you have a tendency to be reserved or even withdrawn in new situations, especially at business functions. If that is a weakness for the position, say so but inform the interviewer that you are working on the issue by:

  -  introducing yourself to at least two people at every gathering you attend and
  -  getting to know people instead of focusing on your tendencies to be shy.

Regardless, the key is not to ignore or discount a potential weakness. Instead, state the problem, then let the interviewer know you are actively working to improve and state what you are doing to overcome and rectify it.

Never just state the problem; and never divulge personal weaknesses or character flaws. Keep everything job related.

Karen Hinds President/CEO – Workplace Success Group,
Toll Free: 1-877-902-2775;
Tel: 1-203-757-4103
[email protected]
Creator of The Workplace Success Program (TM