It’s the big day!
You walk into your interview for that new job you’ve always wanted, fresh-faced and prepared to knock it out of the park. All of your friends have given you advice about how to answer even the toughest interview questions in order to impress the hiring manager.
The interviewer asks you, “What’s your biggest weakness?”
You confidently answer, “I’m too motivated. At my last job, I worked so hard and never left the office.”
The interviewer questions how this was a weakness for you, and suddenly, you’re left reeling. Because after all, it isn’t a weakness. It’s you attempting to disguise a strength as a weakness.
“What’s your biggest weakness?” is one of the most difficult questions an interviewer can ask and one that candidates often just aren’t prepared to answer correctly.
Here’s the #1 mistake job seeker’s make:
When asked this question, candidates often try to disguise a positive trait as a negative one.
Other examples may sound like:
“I’m too much of a perfectionist. Everything has to be just right.”
“I’m a natural leader so sometimes I’ll just take control of a situation.”
“I work too hard, and it can lead to burnout.”
Now, this seems to make sense. You want to impress the interviewer and show them why they want to hire you, not scare them off.
However, interviewers know this. You’re not fooling them or anyone else.
They want to get an accurate representation of what it will be like to work with you, so the way you answer this question is very telling. By trying to deceive the interviewer through presenting a strength as a weakness, all it conveys to them is either you’re not very honest or you aren’t willing to own up to your own flaws and weaknesses.
What to Avoid When Asked About Your Weaknesses:
Picking up from the last scenario, let’s say you’ve told the interviewer that your biggest weakness is being too motivated.
They dismiss this and say, “No, what’s your real biggest weakness?”
Some job seekers may become aggressive after this. They may think something along the lines of, “Is he calling me a liar?” or “How dare he not believe me?”
No matter what you do, keep your cool. Although you may not like being questioned like this, the interviewer is just doing his job in making sure you’re a good fit for the company.
It’s nothing personal, and losing your temper won’t help you get the job.
Refusing to answer the question
Sometimes job seekers will insist that they have no weaknesses or that their disguised strength is their actual weakness.
This is often a result of the candidate being unprepared for further questioning and freezing up. Their mind goes blank, and they have no idea what they should say.
In this scenario, it’s better to tell the truth than to withhold it. Otherwise, you’ll just look like you’re trying to hide something.
Telling the interviewer too much
Too often, we’ll continue to talk about something in order to fill an awkward silence. This is a strategy hiring managers often utilize to see what else a candidate might say.
Resist the urge to keep talking. Instead, briefly address your weaknesses, let the interviewer have their say, and then move on. Maybe even ask them some questions of your own!
Choosing the wrong weakness
Another mistake many job seekers make is panicking when being further questioned and telling interviewers about the wrong weakness.
The wrong weakness is a weakness that will be a deal breaker for the job. It’s a weakness that is highly relevant to the job and will drastically reduce your chances of getting said job if you talk about it.
For instance, if you’re interviewing for a sales position, it’s never a good idea to tell the hiring manager you have trouble speaking to new people or making friends.
Instead, you want to focus on the right weakness.
How to Choose the Right Weakness
When telling the interviewer about your biggest weakness, the most important step is to choose the right weakness.
What is the right weakness, you may ask? It will vary from person to person, but ideally, the right weakness is:
Be Prepared to Talk About It
Many interviewers will ask follow-up questions about your biggest weakness.
The most popular one is, “How has this weakness negatively affected you?”
This is why it’s so important to choose a weakness you have genuinely struggled with. When answering this question, the interviewer will be able to tell if you are speaking from experience or telling a made-up story.
Always give the interviewer a well thought out but concise answer to this question. An example of this might be:
“I’ve always had trouble with public speaking. I tend to get a little nervous when delivering presentations at large meetings. I’m fine when I’m speaking in smaller groups of five or less, but any more than that and I start getting flustered.”
Keep it short and sweet. You don’t want to talk about yourself in a self-deprecating way, but you also want to be honest and upfront about your weakness.
Once you have chosen the right weakness and opened up about it, take it a step further. Tell the interviewer about how you are working to improve it.
How to Show the Hiring Manager You’re Working on Your Weakness
Acknowledging your weakness is a large part of getting hired. However, interviewers will not only want to know about your greatest weakness, but they’ll also want to know what you’re doing to improve it.
This is why it’s so important to choose a real weakness. After you’ve told the hiring manager about your weakness, you’ll want to tell them about the actions you are taking to remedy it.
For instance, after you’ve told the interviewer about your fear of public speaking, follow up with:
“But even though I get flustered in large groups, I have been taking steps to get better at it. Last month I attended a local presentation seminar and gave a 10-minute speech in front of about 50 people. I’m also currently a member of a local Leads group where we take turns pitching our services bi-weekly.”
This shows the interviewer that you are motivated and take steps to get better in the areas you lack.
Want to get in some practice? Check out our Interview Simulator to practice with some common difficult interview questions!
Receive a summarized version of our exclusive training program, tips and other interviewing insights for free.
Understand what employers look for in a perfect candidate and how you can use this program to land your dream job.
Learn what to research about a company, why it’s important, and how to use that information to gain an edge over the competition.
Keep track of your research with this step-by-step worksheet that helps you capture important company information as you go.
Determine how to accurately assess your strengths and weaknesses and use them to your advantage during an interview.
Don’t know what your top strengths and weaknesses are? This worksheet will help you identify them and then use them to formulate your talking points.
Understand why interviewers ask Behavioral and Situational questions, then learn how to use the S.T.A.R. technique to blow them out of the water!
Technical questions are an important part of the interview process. Understand why they are asked and how best to answer these questions.
The questions you ask are almost as important as the answers you give during an interview. Determine which questions to ask and why they’re important.
Knowing what to do before and after an interview is crucial. Use this checklist to help get you into the right mindset for the big day!
* We promise not to spam.