Let’s be honest, even if you practice and come in prepared, job interviews are stressful. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling this way—92% of employed Americans feel stressed out about job interviews. With that in mind, some questions can be more difficult to answer than others. By far, one of the hardest and most common interview questions people stress over is how to talk about their weaknesses in a job interview. This is such a difficult question to answer because there’s an art to it.
You don’t want to say the wrong thing to make yourself look bad, but you also don’t want to come off as though you think you’re perfect and have no weak points. It’s all about balance and showing how a weakness can work in your favor or educate you going forward. It sounds a little weird to think of weaknesses working in your favor, but believe it or not, when you phrase weak points correctly, this is often the case.
Here are three strategies to help you answer one of the most common interview questions: “What’s your biggest weakness?”
Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses ahead of time.
First and foremost it’s important to be prepared. If you don’t, you’ll likely stumble and just say the first answer that comes to mind. This answer might not be as eloquent as you’d like. To ensure this doesn’t happen, prepare in advance and come up with a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Strengths tend to be easier to come up with, but weaknesses can be more difficult because it’s common to want to hide a weakness in an interview. No one likes to acknowledge weak points.
Some examples of weaknesses might include:
Don’t be ashamed about having a weakness.
Everyone has at least one area where they can improve so it’s important that you don’t get down on yourself when you’re exploring your weaknesses. Exploring your weak spots can be a great opportunity for growth. By taking note of areas of improvement, you can use this to your advantage, take on some continuing education, and learn what you need in order to develop a well-rounded understanding of your industry and/or role.
Additionally, self-awareness is a huge asset and is considered to be a big strength. While you may be weak in one area, acknowledging this and showing your own self-awareness will help highlight your strength and value as a candidate.
Share what you’ve learned from it or how you’re working to improve a weak point.
Wondering how to answer “what’s your biggest weaknesses?” in a job interview? It’s all about framing your weakness in the right way and spinning it into something positive. Everyone is human, so recruiters and hiring managers expect that each and every person will have at least one weak area. It’s just about acknowledging yours and showing how you can actually use your weakness to your benefit. It might sound crazy, but your weakness could really be a blessing in disguise.
Perhaps your weakness is self-confidence. If this is the case, try phrasing it like this:
“In the past, one of my weak points has been self-confidence, however upon writing my résumé and looking at my achievements on paper, I’ve been able to build that confidence to help me move forward in my career in a more confident manner.”
This shows that you’ve put in the effort to work on yourself, put effort into your résumé, and analyzed what you’ve accomplished at work to evaluate progress and hold yourself accountable. These are all very beneficial traits in a candidate.
If one of your weaknesses is taking on too much at once, try acknowledging it like this:
“One of my biggest weaknesses is the desire to please people. I don’t like saying no to a project or responsibility, however, I’ve noticed that when I take on too much, I’m not able to reach my full potential on every project. Realizing this has helped me prioritize and only take on projects within my bandwidth so that I can be sure to put the best quality forward in every project I execute.”
Ultimately, showing how something helped you grow or change for the better will always work in your favor.
People always ask me how to answer “What’s your biggest weakness?” in a job interview—it’s one of the most common interview questions, after all—and the truth is that the answer will differ from person to person. As long as you prepare and show what you’ve learned or how you’re working to improve your weak area(s), you’ll answer the question well and show potential employers how your self-awareness adds to your value as a candidate.
About the Author: Michele Lando is a certified professional résumé writer, personal branding expert, and founder of Write Styles. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals’ application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles provides resources to enhance your résumé, professional appearance, and boost your confidence. Michele strives to help others gain the confidence to put their best foot forward in a personal and professional light.
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This story was originally published on July 24, 2019, and has since been updated.