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The dreaded question: what's a good answer to "what are your weaknesses?"

The dreaded question: what's a good answer to "what are your weaknesses?"


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02/10/2018

One of the most common interview questions candidates come up against is where they're asked about their weaknesses. KLC Recruitment knows that this simple query can still cause dread in many people, which is why we're taking a thorough look at the question and how best to answer it, so you can approach your response with confidence.

The point behind the question

Before untangling the response and preparing for your interview, it's worthwhile understanding why this question is asked. Doing so will help make sense of what they are looking for in an answer.
An interviewer is looking for certain traits in a candidate. Honesty and trustworthiness are high on the list, as well as self-awareness, and a willingness to learn and develop. Asking about your greatest weakness means they get to see how truthful you can be with both them, and yourself. By admitting that you are aware of your weaknesses, and being willing to discuss them honestly, shows that you can be relied upon to own your faults and mistakes.


Knowing your biggest weakness means you can evaluate yourself. While potential employers want people that believe in themselves, there is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and self-awareness helps temper conceit.
Another side that this question allows interviewers to evaluate is how you approach your weaknesses. Are you overly negative about them? Or do you see areas to grow in, and develop?

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Employers often have a checklist of traits they look for in candidates.

 

Creating a strong answer

Though honesty in necessary, how your response is presented matters as well. Being aware of the impression your answer gives is important to making sure it presents you in the best possible way.

Know your weaknesses

Take the time to figure out what your shortcomings are. It can be harder than expected to understand where your strengths and weaknesses reside, so don't leave this to the last minute. If you are struggling to define them, go back over feedback received from previous jobs, and review what they've said.

Study the skills required

Read over the job description for the position you are interviewing for, and make yourself familiar with the essential skills needed. When discussing your weaknesses you don't want to mention something that is necessary for the role. Instead, focus on the skills that aren't as important for the position. For example, being poor at public speaking may not impact how you perform within an accounting job, but can be a big issue if you are looking at social work.

Think character

Consider your personality traits, but keep any responses that involve them focused on how they relate to the work environment. The interviewer isn't looking for personal life stories - they want to know how you will fare in the office workspace. If you know you are more reserved, talk about how this can be a weakness in building strong work relationships and what you've learnt to do to help negate it. However, don't turn it into a discussion on how it impacts you in making friends in your free time.

Develop your answer

Don't leave your response here though, but take the opportunity to show how you are improving yourself in the areas you've mentioned. Being willing to spend time conquering weaknesses is a strength in itself, and highlights that you are proactive and self-motivated. You can also introduce old areas of weaknesses, and how you've overcome them. If you used to struggle using a specific application, but have gone on to master it, this demonstrates your dedication to self-development.

 

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Showing that you are working on your weaknesses demonstrates initiative.

 

What not to do


Avoid the cliches. Responses such as being a perfectionist, or working too hard, are often immediately dismissed. They can come across inauthentic, and show no effort or honesty, as well as leaving you sounding like everybody else that falls back on these standard answers. When looking to win an employer over, you want to stand out, not fade into the crowd.
Don't make the mistake of only having one weakness prepared as well. Not only may the interview lead away from the direction you were going to head with it, there's a chance that, to mix the question up a little, your interviewer will ask for more than one weakness.
Try not to rote learn your response. Even though it is a common interview question, how it is presented and the rhythm of the conversation beforehand may require you to adjust how you respond. Make sure you are prepared, but don't rehearse to avoid the answer appearing staged.
With how awkward this question can be, it is easy to spend too much time lingering over your answer and talking in circles. The better option is to keep your responses clear and succinct, maintaining professionalism. Remember, you want to state your weaknesses, not demonstrate them.
Interviews can be stressful, which is why the team at KLC Recruitment is here to help you prepare and build your confidence.

 



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