What are your weaknesses?
This is still a typical interview question asked by recruiters, although it has become quite cliché by now.
Most applicants will already expect to be asked the question and reply with an answer, such as, “I have no weaknesses” or “My greatest weakness? Chocolate! But I do sports twice a week.” So, how should you react if you’re asked about your strengths and weaknesses? Read this article to find out!
Weaknesses in the Job Interview – Wrong Answers
If you’re asked about your weaknesses in your next job interview, then there are some answers that you should never give, such as:
“I’m a perfectionist.”
“I work too much.”
“I have no weaknesses.”
Believe it or not, all of the answers above were printed in job application guide books; since then, they have become widely used statements.
Giving such an answer in a job interview will make the recruiter smirk at best, but it’s more likely that they will downgrade you, because they very well know that nobody is perfect.
Interestingly enough, studies by Harvard have shown that 80% of recruiters are more likely to hire applicants that admit to having real weaknesses (e.g. “I procrastinated too much…”, “I tend to overreact…”) or who dress their weaknesses in positive ways (“I’m too nice”, “I place too much value on fairness…”).
Admitting weaknesses shows that you’re honest, which also makes you seem more authentic.
Admitting to Weaknesses in Your Job Interview? Absolutely!
So the advice we can give you: Be honest and admit your faults and weaknesses, as long as they don’t interfere with your new position. You shouldn’t apply as a bank teller and state in the job interview “I’m very bad with numbers…”. However, it will put you in a good light, if you tell the recruiter about ways and methods which you are actively working on to overcome your weaknesses.
Here Are Some Examples:
“I find it a bit difficult to speak to a bigger audience. I’m usually very nervous and feel somewhat uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I am trying to get my stage fright under control, that’s why I’ve started taking a rhetoric course.”
Naturally, this weakness would only be problematic if you actually had to speak to larger groups frequently in your new job – for example, as a press spokesperson. If this situation occurs now and then – such as, during internal meetings – the handicap is limited.
If you then point out that you are attending rhetoric courses or seminars for presentation techniques, the weakness is no longer a problem; on the contrary, it proves increasing communication competence.
“It is difficult for me to express my opinion in a big group, especially if I have to stand my ground alone against others. Most of the time, I look for colleagues in advance who I can convince in a one-on-one conversation and who will support me later on.
Admittedly, this weakness is not optimal and can turn into a real problem in almost any position. After all, assertiveness is what one expects from future management talents. But let’s be honest, isn’t that how it works for all of us – all alone with an opinion against the rest of the world? What do you have colleagues and a team for?!
Anyone who can convince his/her team, or a small group of colleagues, in advance, will not stand alone with his/her opinion later on. This emphasizes one’s ability to think strategically – despite weakness. If you are able to convince your colleagues, you probably have some good arguments, and thus probably only need a little rhetoric training.
More Examples of Weaknesses in a Job Interview:
- I cannot say “No”…
- Sometimes I talk too much, to express my motivation…
- I only have little practical knowledge so far…
- My self-organization could be better…
The same applies to these points; of course, they should always be connected to a positive aspect in the interview. For instance, the lack of organization is avoided by making sure to write down one’s tasks and deadlines, as to not lose track of things.
Strengths in the Interview – Don’t Be Overconfident
If the interviewer has already asked about one’s weaknesses, then the next logical step is that they will also inquire about the applicant’s strengths.
Many candidates feel safe here; after all, it seems easy to talk about one’s own qualities and to emphasize why one is the perfect candidate for the job. But it is not quite that simple, because there should be some balance.
Neither should you sell yourself short, nor should the answer turn into a form of self-admiration.
Don’t Praise Yourself to the Skies:
The same applies to strengths as to weaknesses: everything in moderation. Of course you want to sell yourself well, but it has to be realistic. You should try to focus on a few of your strongest qualities that also apply to this position.
It might be nice to throw around buzzwords, to claim you possess all types of qualities in order to try to convince the recruiter (“I’m able to withstand stress, a team player, ingenious, creative, flexible…”). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that in practice.
The interviewer will only be able to get a good impression of you, if you’re able to state your strengths with the help of concrete examples, for instance, from a previous job.
The following phrases and examples show you how this can look in practice. These can serve as inspiration, but they should not simply be memorized and adopted for the next interview. They should fit YOUR abilities and your situation specifically:
“I can work very well under time pressure and stress. When the deadline for a major project was imminent in my last job, it drove me to even better performance.”
” I am capable of quickly understanding new areas of responsibility and fields of activity. That’s why I like working in project management so much, because you always have to adapt to new situations.”
“In order to solve problems, my creativity often comes in handy. During my training, I regularly organized meetings with several colleagues, in which we brainstormed and developed new ideas”.
“If I have set my mind on something, nothing can keep me from following through with it. This determination helped me to never give up and eventhough my chances were slim, in the end I was able to get an apprenticeship.”
So as you can see, the question on strengths and weaknesses in a job interview is not ultimately about giving the “right” answers, but rather about presenting yourself in an honest and convincing manner.
You don’t have to be the greatest, smartest, or most accomplished candidate to get the job. Candidates score far more points through openness, humanity, and sincerity. Simply because, it is precisely such people that coworkers will enjoy working with later on.