People typically have a really hard time answering the “what is your biggest weakness?” question. It goes against all of the self-promotion cramming people do when on the job market. How can I portray myself as the ideal candidate and then start talking about the ways in which I’m not ideal?
As it turns out, this is an important question—and one that most interviewees botch. Keep in mind that, first of all, there is no right answer. But you should have a good one all the same.
Spin it as a Growth Experience
Try rethinking it as an opportunity for you to show how you have faced a particularly large obstacle in the past, and how you learned and grew from that experience. Reframe the question into showing how you deal with your flaws productively, rather than trying to humblebrag and pick a non-flaw (i.e. “I’m too much of a perfectionist”… hiring managers see right through this).
Use it to Show You're Not Perfect (It's Okay!)
Confidence is important, but humility is also. Hiring managers want to see a lot from column A, but also a healthy dose of that little bit of honesty and willingness to confront one’s weaknesses from column B.
You know you have weaknesses. So try to figure out a way to A) be honest about them, and B) turn them somehow to your advantage. There are stories out there about candidates who open their cover letters by zeroing in on their potential weaknesses or holes in their resume, rather than trying to bury that lack of experience in their resumes. Think along the lines of: “At first glance, I know I’m not the candidate you’ve envisioned.” That sort of opening salvo of honesty will certainly grab a hiring manager’s attention, and it will give you a chance to frame your candidacy in the best possible light (i.e. “But… I am uniquely qualified because….”).
Explain That You Are Always Fine-Tuning
Remember that admitting your inadequacies doesn’t show that you’re inadequate. Quite the contrary. It usually shows that you are self-aware, and that you take the time to examine the parts of your success-machine that are in need of tune-ups or replacements. That you are constantly trying to improve. That’s often the kind of quality that any employer would be very keen to have in an employee.
So prepare. But don’t go into an interview with a canned response. Come up with something that can segue into a story of overcoming obstacles, and keep it work related. Show you’re human, but hardworking, and you’ll never be on the wrong end of this ubiquitous interview question again.
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