How To Answer What Are Your Weaknesses
Getting invited to an interview is exciting because you know you’ve moved one step closer to landing the job you’ve had your eye on. The recruiter must have been impressed with your resume enough to put it on the “for interview” pile. But you know you’re not the only one.
An interview is a process of elimination. You want to be sure you’ll be seen as the best on the shortlist. You’ve prepared and practiced answers that highlight your strengths as a candidate.
Imagine your surprise when the recruiter asks “What are your weaknesses?”
Why Do Recruiters Want To Know Your Weaknesses?
There are 3 reasons why recruiters want to know your weaknesses. Answer the question correctly, and you’ll give the recruiter reasons to hire you.
- Self-Awareness: Are you the type of person who frequently does a self-evaluation of your performance and assesses your strengths and weaknesses?
- Self-Motivation: Are you willing to sign up and take courses to improve upon those weak points?
- Honesty and Humility: Are you honest and humble enough to admit weaknesses?
Thus, the Hiring Manager will ask the question “What are your weaknesses” to uncover the set of skills he can’t identify with certainty from your resume.
Your soft skills – the behavioral/personality traits that best describe who you are and how you would approach your employment with the company.
Over the years, HR departments have shifted their focus toward soft skills instead of hard or technical skills. Businesses have increasingly adopted technology-based processes that can improve efficiency but at the expense of relationship building.
It’s no longer enough to find the best people with the required technical skill set. Companies want to hire people who can fit into their organizational culture.
A candidate who willingly admits and discusses his weaknesses to the Hiring Manager is someone who can grow with the company.
He makes himself accountable for his mistakes and shortcomings, has the initiative to find ways to improve upon his flaws, and is willing to undergo training to become a better, more productive employee.
How To Answer What Are Your Weaknesses
Don’t be afraid to answer this question. The recruiter isn’t fishing for ways to not hire you. Otherwise, why would you get invited to the interview in the first place?
It’s not about learning what your weaknesses are but discovering who you are as a potential employee of the company.
Now that you know the “why” or the purpose of the question, it’s time to learn how to answer what are your weaknesses.
Review the Job Requirements Carefully
Let’s assume you’re interested in applying for the vacant position of Market Researcher for a stock brokerage firm. The company has outlined the following qualifications in its job ad:
- High-level understanding and experience applying Dow Theory, Elliott Wave Theory, and Fibonacci Ratios when analyzing market trends.
- Knowledge of Moving Average, Relative Strength Index, and other oscillators.
- Good understanding of key economic concepts.
- Knowledge of analyzing and interpreting financial statements.
After reviewing your current list of qualifications, you realize that your understanding of Dow Theory, Elliott Wave Theory, and the Relative Strength Index is limited – basic at best.
You can frame your answer as follows:
“Impatience is my most glaring weakness. I love learning new concepts in market research and acquiring new skills in technical analysis, but after a few classes or courses, I feel I’m an expert and ready to go. Things go well at the start but as the research becomes more complicated, I find myself lacking sufficient knowledge of the subject matter. So I end up researching and studying the areas I wasn’t able to cover in the particular skill and this costs valuable time. Thus, I can add impetuous as another weakness.”
Why this is a good answer:
The interviewee avoided mentioning that his knowledge of specific skills indicated in the job description is insufficient. But he was able to use his weakness – impatience – to inform the Hiring Manager that he has the knowledge and practical experience in applying some of the techniques in technical analysis.
Lastly, he concluded by tying in another weakness – impetuousness as a consequence of being impatient.
Give Your Answer a Positive Spin
A weakness won’t be viewed in a negative light if you give it a positive spin.
For example, you’re interested in becoming the new Accountant for a big retail chain. You know that in your previous job, you were often late with your deadlines because you were detail-oriented to a fault.
But being detail-oriented is a required skill for an accountant.
You can give your answer a positive spin by framing “detail-oriented” in this manner:
“Becoming too detail-oriented is my number 1 weakness. Yes, being detail-oriented is important in accounting where accuracy is a must. However, I tend to double and triple-check reports, review the numbers with my assistants, and run them through software programs just to be 100% sure. This flaw in my profession as an accountant has caused delays in the submission of timely reports to the company. I need to prioritize time management more and learn to trust my team so I can meet deadlines regularly.”
Cite a Specific Example of the Weakness at Work
By citing a specific incident at work that highlighted your weakness, the Hiring Manager will get a better idea of who you are as an employee.
Here’s an example:
“I have a problem working with teams. That’s my most glaring weakness. Last year, our team was tasked to design and develop a productivity app for a client. Since the client was a big name in the tech industry, I wanted to make sure we made the timetable of delivery. Given my knowledge in front and backend programming, I took it upon myself to program the features of the app and make changes in the programming languages without advising my teammates. It caused tension because I unwittingly undermined the skills of the other programmers. My intent was to fast-track the project, and while it did, my ‘lone wolf’ approach compromised team chemistry.”
This answer works because the candidate owned up to his mistakes and has accounted for his role in disrupting team chemistry. Likewise, It shows that the candidate has the required technical skills for front and backend programming which is a big plus.
Highlight the Strength of the Weakness
If you’re looking for your first job fresh out of college or if you’re embarking on a new career, you’ll definitely have one weakness you can’t hide.
Lack of experience.
You can get a lot of mileage out of your lack of experience by highlighting the advantages of this disadvantage.
For a fresh graduate:
“As a first-time job seeker, my biggest weakness is lack of experience. I don’t have practical experience in analyzing and interpreting financial statements which I learned in college. However, the advantage of not having actual work experience is that, unlike experienced candidates who might be set in their ways, my mind is open. I am a willing learner who can absorb your knowledge and approach like a sponge.”
For someone shifting careers:
“I admit I don’t have actual work experience in sales. For the last 2 years, I’ve been working as a Product Manager tasked to design, develop, and improve the company’s current and upcoming offerings. However, the job has taught me how to view the value of the product from a customer’s point of view. This is an advantage because I can help your customers find ways to maximize the value of your products.”
Choose a Weakness That Ties In Work With Your Life
Managing work-life balance is hard for many employees. Recruiters are well aware of this because they could be dealing with it as well. Achieving a balance between your professional and personal life is a struggle that everyone knows and will clearly resonate with the job interviewer.
Here’s an example:
“Maintaining a good balance between work and life is my biggest weakness. I’m an ambitious person who’s driven by his goal to succeed at work. So I tend to spend more time at work. There are days when I bring my work home with me and this affects quality time with family. It’s ironic because the reason I work so hard is to provide my family a good life.”
It’s a good answer because it humanizes you. Saying that you “work too hard” is not a boisterous statement because people who are in the same situation will say the same thing.
Talking about one’s strengths is easy because it makes you feel good and accomplished. Talking about one’s weaknesses is harder because it exposes your faults and vulnerabilities.
That’s why many job candidates are flustered when the recruiter wants to know their weaknesses. They don’t want to give the recruiter a reason or reasons not to hire them.
Put it this way. If a recruiter was looking for reasons not to hire you, why would he invite you for an interview?
When asked “What are your weaknesses” by the recruiter, just be honest. It would be a good idea to practice and prepare your answers a few days before the job interview.
Don’t worry about the answer. It’s just the recruiter’s way of getting to know you outside of the resume.
Discover other job interview questions and how to answer them
- How to answer tell me about yourself
- How to answer why do you want to work here
- How to answer salary expectations
- How to answer why should we hire you
- How to answer why are you interested in this position
- How to answer what is your greatest weakness
- How to answer what are your strengths
- How to answer behavioral interview questions
- How to answer what makes you unique
- How to answer what areas need improvement