Written by Rod Scott, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Vaughan
“You’ve told me about your strengths—now, can you share what you consider to be your biggest weakness?”
It’s the interview question we all dread. Well, except for hiring managers (who ask it pretty frequently), which means that you should be prepared with a well-thought-out answer.
But here’s the thing. It can be really tough, but it’s important not to lie or to gloss over your weaknesses. Ultimately, most employers want to hire someone who is reflective about their skill-sets and who knows what areas they need to work on.
Here is a strategy of how to answer this question in a successful way:
- Brainstorm a “weakness”. Think about something that isn’t your strong suit, something that has come up in the past as an area that you should work on. This could be delegating work to others, not enough attention to detail, too detail-oriented, not great at presentation skills, etc. The weakness should be something that is true to you, but not something that will prevent you from being successful in the position you are being interviewed for (ie. an English Teacher would want to avoid saying that he gets nervous in front of large groups).
- Explain why this “weakness” is a weakness, but interject your statement with positive skills you have as well. For example, if your weakness is that you are not great at public speaking, cushion your statement with a few positives: While I have great oral communication skills, and work well sharing my opinions in group environments, I have difficulty with public speaking in front of large audiences.
- Show what you are planning to do to overcome it. It’s important to not only identify your area of improvement, but also to show the employer that you are aware of the steps you need to take to overcome the weakness and that you have already started this process.
So for example, if someone said, “What’s your biggest weakness?” you could answer:
“Well, I used to be pretty horrible at public speaking. When I started college, it was a massive issue, and I was just terrified by it, and I don’t think I was articulate in expressing myself in front of large groups. So first I took the small step of promising myself that I would speak up in front of really small groups, for example in class. Then, I worked up to taking a public speaking class and registered with my local Toastmasters Club in Vaughan, which made a big difference. Now, even though I get a little nervous, I feel like it’s something that doesn’t completely hold me back, and, in fact, recently I gave a speech at an Artificial Intelligence conference with over 300 attendees. My palms were a little sweaty; however I got great feedback from several of the conference participants and organizers.”
When confronted with this interview question, remember the interviewer is looking for the right fit. They are forming a picture of you based on your answers. A single answer will probably not keep you from getting the job, unless, of course, it is something obvious. Put your energy into your strengths statement—what you have to offer. Then, as noted above, let the interviewer know that although you may not be perfect, you are working on any shortcomings you have. This will show the employer that you are self-aware, adaptable with the ability to take initiative to continuously self-improve.
Looking to improve your interview skills? Visit one on our 7 GTA locations and register for our free monthly workshops which include One-on- one Interview practice, video recorded interview practice, and group workshops.
Need help calming your nerves when public speaking? Visit Toast Masters International to get started. Visiting a club is an exciting first step and there’s no need to feel pressure to participate at your first club meeting – you can simply observe if you wish.