Handling the Toughest Interview Question: “Define Your Weaknesses”

No matter how well you prepare for job interviews, it’s nearly impossible not to get tongue-tied when you hear that dreaded question: “what would you say are your greatest weaknesses?” And no, you can’t get away with answering “sometimes, I work too hard.” While you may think this question is simply designed to trip you up in job interviews, it’s actually quite common – and your answers really do matter. The wrong answers to this line of questioning will not only leave you embarrassed, stumbling and mumbling – but can completely diffuse the ground you’ve made with the questions you’ve answered positively. Take a few moments to review these tips on the best ways to prepare and successfully answer “weakness” based interview questions.

Knowing Your Material: What are “Weaknesses?”
In understanding what you’re going to say when asked about weaknesses, it’s important not to define these as you would normally. Instead of just describing things you aren’t good at, think about things you’ve become good at over time. For example, you could say something like “You know, something I’ve really worked on is my ability to clearly communicate my expectations of other team members on shared projects. However, after a lot of work to adjust my preparations before meetings and huddles, my managers have cited me as one of the best communicators in our office.” To be more obvious, this is the best way to define a weakness of “poor communication.” Prepare at least three good examples like the one above, and make sure your answers are truly founded in honesty.

Delivery: The Art of Presentation
Equally important to the example material you’ve prepared and rehearsed is the manner in which you deliver it. Much of this is about the composure you carry, and the confidence with which you present yourself. While this is an essential factor to work on during all parts of a job interview, the “define your weaknesses” section is a common place that many people tend to lose this composure. Much of this is simply because of the nature of the question. While most of the interview has been about defining strengths, giving you a chance to puff yourself up – the “weaknesses” section can seem a surprising attack; merely because it implies you definitely have some. But that’s okay, the fact is – we all do!
This is what you must remember when answering this question. Don’t try to “cover up” your weaknesses, or scramble to prove that you don’t have any – that will make you look weaker than anything else. Calmly, and coolly expressing trouble spots you’ve had, and how you’ve overcome them. If you can execute on this basic framework, you’ll likely be one of the best interviewees they’ve ever seen – because few people successfully do.

Bonus Tip: Getting the Extra Edge
Along with answering the “weaknesses” section of the job interview, there are other things you can do that will surprise your interviewers in a good way. For example, printed resumes are a must – but also considering printing some custom business cards with your personal contact information on them. With some clever and flashy design, you’ll leave your recently impressed interviewees even more wowed. Few interviewees have access to a digital display to present the data of their professional experience; but consider printing some one-sheet handouts, rack cards, or small brochures with your data will amaze your interview team more than you can imagine. So ask yourself, “how badly do I want this job” – and consider making the investment that will take you there!

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