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Common Interview Question: What are Your Weaknesses?

Post Author Sarah Chatelain
Feb 14, 2014 9:45:00 AM
Career Tips

Inconsistencies…opportunities…deficiencies…it seems like every company has a different term for weaknesses.  When you are interviewing for a job, you are trying to present the most positive and capable version of yourself to a potential employer.  When he or she says, “Tell me about your opportunities,” it may seem counterintuitive to start talking about what you need to improve as opposed to selling the skills in which you are already proficient.  However, there is a specific reason that the interviewer is asking you this question, and your answer will tell him or her what kind of employee you will be if you are hired.

Why is your answer to this question so important?  Depending on how well you have prepared your response, it can either tell the interviewer that you are concerned about your job performance, receptive to feedback, and constantly seeking to improve, or conversely, that you are potentially unwilling to listen to constructive criticism and not self-motivated to improve yourself.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for this question in a job interview:

1. “I can’t think of anything” is not an answer

First, this reply tells the interviewer that you haven’t prepared for the interview, as it is a fairly common question.  Second, it says that you don’t have an accurate account of your job performance and may not have any desire to adjust for the better.  The interviewer isn’t looking for you to say you’re perfect; he or she wants to see that you can assess your own conduct and identify the areas in which you need to improve.

2. Spin your weakness into a win

Presenting your weakness as a strength can also help you impress your interviewer.  A predilection to get hung up on checking every detail of a project can make you late for a deadline, but if presented the right way, it can also show that you are a conscientious employee who consistently strives for perfection in your work.  You could say, “I tend to get sidetracked by scrutinizing small details when I am working on projects.  As a result, I have to hold myself to a very strict timetable and priority list to make sure that I have tasks completed on time.”

3. Don’t just stop at the opportunity; say what you’re doing to change it

Once you have identified that you can objectively assess your performance and distinguish opportunities, you need to show the interviewer that you can also independently plan to improve or eradicate the behavior.  You can discuss how you researched the problem and found a solution, and/or give an example of how this has successfully worked in the past.  Instead of merely saying, “I have trouble delegating small tasks,” you can explain, “I identified that I have trouble delegating small tasks because I am a perfectionist.  In working to improve this, I periodically check with the person responsible to make sure he or she is on track to achieve the same result I would.  This has enabled me to spend more time on complicated tasks and thus improved productivity of my department.”

A confident, prepared answer to this question will help you show the interviewer that you are capable of assessing your own performance, in addition to demonstrating that you’re concerned about how your performance affects your co-workers.   

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