Career Magazine

Interviewing 101: How to Answer “What Are Your Weaknesses?”

By Michelle Merritt @michellemerritt

Once called the

Last week we paid discussed how to answer, “What are your strengths?”  Logic says the interviewers next question will be “What are your weaknesses?” The funny thing about this question is that its so much easier for many of us to answer because we hate giving ourselves praise.  However, we’re afraid to answer the question because we don’t want to give the interviewer reasons to not hire us.  These four little words cause more drama for interviewees than almost any others.  Here’s how I recommend you prepare:

Ask yourself what your real weaknesses are instead of what you think you’re not good at.  

There’s often a difference between what you think you’re bad at and what is a weakness.  Think of a weakness as a “needs improvement area”.  Here’s a personal example.  I’m bad at accounting (as most writers are) so I hire people who can help me with that.  It’s not a professional weakness, it’s a talent I haven’t worked to prefect.  On the other hand, I sometimes lack empathy as a leader especially when working with people I don’t believe are giving their best.  This is a weakness and an area I’m working to improve on.  I have a dear friend who kindly refers to these areas as “development opportunities” which indeed they are if I’m really working to develop those traits.  So ask yourself if what you’re listing in your preinterview notes and prep is a talent you’ve not yet perfected or a development opportunity.

When asked to share your weakness be prepared to speak to what you’re doing about it. 

Weaknesses are development opportunities so this is your chance to speak to how you’re developing those skills and getting stronger in this particular area.  Don’t wait for the interviewer to ask what you’re doing about it, this brief explanation shoudl be part of your answer.  For example, if I share that I sometimes lack empathy as a leader I will immediately follow up with what I’m doing about it such as learning to be a more patient listener, asking the team member how I can help her/him with the problem while still setting boundaries, etc.  This shows that I’m being proactive in professional and personal development which is key in successfully answering this question.

Do not ever answer this question with “I don’t have any”

If you answer this question with “I don’t have any,” your obvious weakness will be that you’re a liar.  We all have weaknesses don’t try to be cute or overly confident by suggesting you don’t.  Be the professional you appeared to be on paper and answer the question appropriately.

Happy interviewing!

To find the answers to the most common interview questions check out our series Interview 101

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