How to Answer: “What are your weaknesses?”
“What are your weaknesses?” This is a question most people dread. How to answer, you may ponder.
Often people misunderstand the purpose of this question and don’t know the secret to answering. Start by thinking which weaknesses you want to say.
What Weakness should I say?
What weakness you give isn’t super important. That’s because employers are not interested in which weakness you have but how you overcome them. By overcoming your weaknesses you demonstrate the competency of growth! Growth is a key skill employers want in their employees.
How do I show growth?
Growth is demonstrated by showing your depth of understanding and what you’ve done to overcome your weakness. You can structure your answer in 5 key stages. Each stage builds on the last showing a higher level of growth, so aim to talk about all 5. The stages are:
- Weakness: Stating the weakness demonstrates your self awareness.
- Impact: This shows you understand the effect on you or your work.
- Importance: By explaining why it’s important to avoid the impact, shows you’re focus on reducing your weaknesses.
- Solution: How you have planned or the action you took to overcome or reduce the weakness. This shows drive to grow and improve – a desirable quality.
- Example: The cherry on top is having an example where you action have been successful and your weakness has been reduced.
- Make the weakness relatable as common weaknesses are more forgiving. For example lots of people don’t like presenting.
- Have meaningful actions to resolve.
- Use feedback from people as evidence for the top stage.
- Bonus mark: Use a Personal Development Plan (PDP) – shows growth is ‘Business as usual’ for you.
- Give a killer weakness such as honesty.
- Give lots of weaknesses.
- Make it generic or lacking depth as this will cast doubt on your self awareness (the first stage of growth).
Let’s look at a weakness example:
Weakness: I can often become too focused in the detail.
Importance: This can lead to non-concise messages to stakeholders.
Impact: I’ve learnt how concise messages to stakeholders is necessary to ensure engagement and progressing projects.
Solution: To overcome this, I planned in my PDP to use the appropriate level of detail by producing stakeholder communication plans for all stakeholders.
Example: As a result of this action, I recently received great feedback from senior management for a presentation I led to a 200 person staff briefing.
And that’s how to answer “What are your weaknesses?”.
The “How to Answer” series
The “How To Answer” series explains the purpose and the best way to structure answers for the most common interview questions. Learn about the key Dos and Don’ts and see an example on how to apply them. Check out other questions in the series here:
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All the best.