A friend of mine recently went through a job interview and told me afterward that he felt it was going very well until he got asked the following question: “What do you see as your greatest weakness?”. He admitted he wasn’t prepared for it (he should have been – this question get asked fairly often) and stumbled around, finally saying something about how he should improve his planning skills. He really felt the interview went downhill from there and wondered how he could have handled this tough question better.
Frankly, even though I’m a Hiring Manger, this question is an absurd one in my mind because it tells me nothing useful about the applicant’s experience or accomplishments. However, many Hiring Managers still like to ask it. There really is no correct answer. The whole purpose is to see how well you think on your feet when asked a difficult question.
And I’m now going to tell you the secret to answering this question: don’t answer it!
That’s right – don’t fall into the trap of using the old worn out strategy of taking something generally regarded as a positive and stating it is a negative. For example, saying something such as “When the chips are down, I tend to drive myself too hard.” Every experienced Hiring Manager knows this is a cliché answer that you obtained from some interview advice site.
Instead of trying to provide an answer when there really is no good answer, try something like this:
“I’m sure we all have things we’d like to improve about ourselves, but the job, as I understand it, plays to my strengths, not my soft spots. I don’t think there is anything in my skills or experience that would prevent me from doing an excellent job for you.”
This is a great answer because it doesn’t deny that you have some soft spots (we all do) but it gets you out of the “confession” mode and turns the question into an opportunity to sell yourself.
As you can see, you didn’t really answer the question, but you made a powerful statement. You demonstrated that you can think on your feet and give an answer that skillfully avoids the trap that this question sets.
I guarantee you’ll be the only person to give this answer and I would send taxi cabs for applicants who could frame an answer like this.
If you encounter a stubborn, short sighted Hiring Manager that still insists on hearing you admit to a weakness (red flag: do you really want to work for this person?), then here’s what I suggest. Say that at times you feel that you try to multi-task too much, but that you work on keeping this under control by constantly looking for ways to improve your organizational skills.
This admits to a weakness, although sometimes a good one to have, but also conveys that you are working on improving it.