“What’s your biggest weakness?” The most dreaded question in a job interview.
While honesty is likely the best policy in this regard, it’s not always easy to point out your flaws in a positive manner. BBC News decided to find out the best way to combat the issue by asking a number of employers, potential employees, academics and recruiters on how best to answer the difficult question without ruining your chances of scoring the job.
The sample group agreed that the reason employers ask the question is to assess the potential employee’s personality in their response, not to trip them up on a flaw particularly. James Reed, Chairman of Reed recruitment explained, “This question is an opportunity for them to delve into your character more.” So how do you answer the query without coming off as a dick?
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances. First off, come prepared with a response and be ready to explain and expand on your weaknesses, but don’t go for the stock standard answer. As Sophie Phillipson, founder of graduate support site HelloGrads, said, “‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I’m stubborn’ are both done to death; everyone knows working to a high standard or being doggedly determined are not weaknesses, so most good interviewers will tell you to think of another.”
She told a story of one graduate interviewee who answered the question by stating she had “so many weaknesses I don’t know where to start,” getting a laugh from the interviewers and showing another side of her personality. Phillipson believes you should “Be bold, original and human if you want to be remembered.”
When discussing your weaknesses, remember to be honest, but only at the surface level, advice Brennan Huff and Dale Doback could have used.
Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of independent job board CV-Library said you should “be honest with your answers; if you struggle with a certain area of your work, you can admit this. So long as you back it up with what you’re doing to improve in this area.” This was echoed by Ed Johnson, who runs mentoring and career progression website PushFar, who said, “The key here is to turn a weakness into something that an organisation may consider advantageous to them.”
But you also don’t want to be too honest as author and careers strategist John Lees suggested, “Never volunteer information about past work relationship problems or culture clashes at work, or critical failings like poor attention to detail or negative feedback you have received in the past, or that you’re worried about what other people say about you behind your back.”
In short, come prepared, be ready to explain your weaknesses honestly and in detail, but make sure not to expose too many faults directly associated with the job you’re applying for. Always follow up with what you’re doing to improve them.