One of the interview questions that can be stressful to prepare for is one that challenges your honesty and your ability to sell yourself in one fell swoop: Tell me about your weaknesses. Usually on the heels of “Tell me about your strengths,” this question can be helpful to hiring managers when thinking about how a candidate will fit in with the current team, especially their potential manager and potential reports. It’s also a good measure of how well someone can handle negative feedback. If the candidate is able to comfortably discuss aspects of their working style that need more development while in an interview setting, than they are probably going to be pretty open-minded when receiving feedback in the workplace and during annual reviews. Therefore, the trick to answering this question is to use your weaknesses to show off your strengths!
A common “joke” answer that people like to toss around when this question comes up is, “I’m a perfectionist – I can’t rest until I achieve high quality results!” Yes, it’s tempting to pretend that you’re perfect. However, saying you’re perfectionist in an interview can sometimes be a red flag to the hiring committee. Admitting to perfectionism could be interpreted as admitting to being stubborn, unyielding, or obsessive when it comes to execution vs. the big picture. If you’re interviewing for an entry-level position, prioritize flexibility over perfectionism. Be the person that can pivot and change direction without falling to pieces, not the person that’s going to waste three hours of company time searching for the perfect email font.
Without further ado, here are three better answers to “What are Your Weaknesses?”
“At my most recent employee review at my last company,…..” This is the perfect opportunity to show that you are not only great at receiving feedback, but you also take it to heart and use it to improve. Use examples from feedback you’ve received at past jobs and give specific examples regarding steps you took to make changes. Add a few more specific actions you intend to take in the future to continue your development.
“I know that your ideal candidate would have experience with (x) and that’s not something I’ve had a chance to work with yet. However…” Keep the focus of your answer on the role and anything that you already know they are looking for that you don’t have. Maybe they were hoping for someone with experience using a specific analytics platform; bring it up and say that, although you haven’t used it yet, you have proven experience picking up similar platforms quickly, then provide examples. This is your chance to speak to weaknesses in your overall application – go for it!
“As I mentioned before, one of my strengths is (x). The drawback to that strength is (x)…” With most people, there is a balance when it comes to strengths and weaknesses. Admitting to a natural “drawback” that accompanies your strength is a genuine response to this question and it doesn’t really reveal anything about you that they wouldn’t have figured out, anyway. For example, if you are a natural collaborator and love working with other people, maybe it’s easy for you to get carried away and spend time talking with co-workers. Since you learned this about yourself, you wear headphones now when at work to keep you focused. This answer could be refreshing to your interviewer in its candidness, and it shows that you’re both self-aware and willing to take action to correct behaviors that detract from your productivity.