It’s the dreaded interview question. You’re sitting across the table from a panel of interviewers and they ask you to expose your greatest weakness. You palms start to sweat as you hear, “Tell me, Ms. Swire. What are your weaknesses?"
In truth, you can turn this uncomfortable moment into a great victory. It’s your time to show a real sense of self-awareness and an ability to change and grow.
Preparing for the Big Question
As you prepare for the big day, consider this question ahead of time. Jot down some examples of weaknesses for interviews in the same way you annotated your strengths and experience.
If you’re asked this in a two-part question -- i.e., “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” -- start with your weaknesses, so you can end on a high note.
Below, you’ll find a sprinkling of sample statements based on the "weakness" being highlighted. Do any of them ring the bell for you? If so, perhaps you can take the sentiment and back it up with an example from your own life. What's important is that you take that weakness and talk about how you overcame it in the past or what you're doing now to work on it.
Jot down a few ideas, and add it to your arsenal before the big day.
Has your drive to succeed come at a cost?
When I look back on my life, I realize I was raised in a very competitive household. We siblings always wanted to one-up the other. As such, I used that drive to maintain a 4.0 GPA and strive for well-respected roles in my professional career.
However, if I pause for reflection, I’ll notice that I still harbor that competitive mindset. Yes, my work is good; but, is it as good as Roger’s over there or Clementine’s over there?
While my parents might say my competitive edge is what leads me to success, I’d venture a guess that it’s also a waste of time to wonder how my work stacks up against someone else’s. As such, I focus most, if not all, of my energy these days on the task before me and nothing beyond it.
Do you have a tough time letting other people do the work?
I have a tough time releasing tasks. That is, if it would be conducive for someone else to take control of one project while I wrapped up another, I have a hard time letting go.
As you can imagine, this only creates a domino effect. My plate becomes too full and my workload strained. Meanwhile, there’s nothing to say my co-worker wouldn’t do just as fine a job, if not better.
However, in my last role, I worked on a very fluid team. It was the first time I felt like we were more of a family than a couple of staff members. When I was overloaded, Diana would pick up the slack and vice versa. It made for a smoother workflow and a much happier day.
Do you tend to overthink things, focusing too much on the details and losing sight of the big picture?
I have a habit of reviewing white papers and documents for far too long. I nitpick over the content and grammar even when it’s well past time to hit the submit button.
In my prior position, I realized that my desire for perfection actually weighed heavily on my manager’s shoulders. Just because the work I turned in was well-polished, it didn’t mean it was acceptable to turn it in at the midnight hour. This led my manager to worry that, someday, I’d miss a deadline.
As such, I remind myself now that I have to let things go. Perfectionism can be burdensome.
Can your emotions get the best of you?
By nature, I’m a highly sensitive person. This is both my weakness and my strength. If someone’s having a tough day and comes across as rather curt, I have to remind myself that it’s not personal. Although it’s never happened to me personally, I imagine if my boss ever snapped at me, I’d have a tough time shaking that off too.
By contrast, this also makes me a tremendous team player. I’m highly aware if someone else is struggling or needs a helping hand. That’s when I’m able to step in and forge a real sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
Are you hesitant to speak up for yourself?
Naturally, I’m a very shy person. At the start of my career, it prevented me from speaking up and contributing to the team. Many of my ideas would come and go, or be offered up by someone else. I couldn’t help but feel I was letting my education and experience wash down the drain.
To push myself out of the box, I enrolled in a public speaking course at ANC University. Sure enough, you won’t find me hiding in the corner these days.
Honesty Is Best
As you think this through, be sure to keep one thing in mind: honesty. It does you no good to say something false and trite. Plus, it’s likely the interviewer will sniff out your blasé response.
And don’t forget; an interview is your chance to ask a few questions too. Take a look at these smart questions to ask in an interview. It’ll be nice to know you have a full grasp of the company as you make some important decisions in the coming weeks.
Then, once you’ve returned home and slipped into your fuzzy slippers, sit down to the task of writing a short thank you letter to the interviewer. Here are some follow-up examples that‘ll help you push through the last task of the day.