If you find yourself in a job interview, there is a strong chance the hiring manager will ask you this question. Or, at least a similarly phrased question. This inquiry can flood you with all sorts of anxiety and can derail even the best interviews if you’re not prepared. The hiring manager knows that nobody is perfect. So why highlight weaknesses in a setting where you want to come across as qualified and likable?
What They Want to Know
While the bulk of the interview will be composed of discussions centered around skills, experience, and whatever else the candidate feels qualifies them for this new role, the hiring manager is trying to pin down whether you possess the soft skills needed to join their team. While hard skills like computer programming will be evident from examples of your work, soft skills reveal themselves through interaction. The question regarding your weaknesses is meant to highlight your honesty, self-awareness, and willingness to learn and grow (or lack thereof). These three characteristics will give a good indication of what it will be like to work with this person; information that is critical to the success of a team or business.
How to Answer
In this situation, how you answer is often more important than what you answer. By asking the question, the hiring manager is looking for an honest answer that shows you’re aware of your shortcomings but actively looking to learn from them and improve. Just ensure that the weakness you give is not a critical component of the job you are applying for. You can ensure this by quickly checking the qualifications on a job description. Sticking with the programming example, a prospective programmer shouldn’t answer attention to detail, as this is a pertinent skill.
Instead, referencing your nervousness around public speaking and the actions you’re taking to improve is what the hiring interview is looking for. Awareness and action are still key. Hiring managers are looking for red flags that indicate a lack of these. Any example that follows the steps outlined above should accomplish this.
The WRONG Answer
There is an answer to this question that is used time and time again. What people may not realize is that it is a clear red flag. And as a result, these candidates will still be job hunting. When asked what’s your biggest weakness, NEVER answer with something along the lines of, “I am a perfectionist.” People think they are cleverly disguising a strength as a weakness but instead come off as ingenuine or lacking self-awareness.
Nobody is perfect and the hiring manager understands this. They just want to ensure that you approach your shortcomings in a realistic, constructive manner. This also includes weaknesses like being a workaholic or being obsessed with organization. Refusing to acknowledge a specific weakness will leave managers questioning what you are hiding.