ACING THE INTERVIEW: “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

By Louise Kursmark, CPRW, JCTC, CEIP, CCM

Most of us feel pretty comfortable talking about our strengths, but who wants to point out flaws? Yet this question is often asked during interviews, and learning to handle it effectively will make you feel more comfortable and confident when you meet with potential employers.

Here are a few suggestions:

Never point out a character or personality flaw – something that isn’t likely to be changed – or something that is critical to the position for which you’re interviewing.

Instead, try to come up with a weakness that 1) will not impact your job performance; 2) can be strengthened should you/your employer so desire; and 3) does not open the door to further inquiries on this topic.

Here are two suggested responses (with credit to career coach and author, Jay A. Block):

  • “Given the importance of technology, I wish my [keyboarding] [word processing] [spreadsheet] [web design] skills were stronger.”
  • “In a global economy, I feel at a disadvantage speaking only one language.”

Also be prepared for the interviewer to delve deeper, looking for a more substantive weakness. Prepare a response that shows how you have worked to improve this weakness or that demonstrates you don’t let the weakness get in the way of your job performance. For instance:

  • “I find I get so excited about the projects I’m working on, I have the tendency to let less time-critical tasks like paperwork slide. So what I do is set aside ten minutes first thing in the morning to get these essential tasks out of the way. By imposing this self-discipline, I get done what I need to without hampering my productivity and creativity the rest of the day.”
  • “I really have to work at being patient with people I perceive as not being team-oriented or who don’t take any initiative. Because I recognize this impatience, I take extra steps to head off the problem. As a manager, I make sure that my staff understands the importance of their work to our goals, and with people in other areas, I really try to communicate clearly and directly so there are no misunderstandings.”

The bottom line… don’t give the interviewer a reason to eliminate you from contention. Keep your answer brief, and when you’ve finished, stop talking. Don’t volunteer unneeded information about any topic that is less than positive, and try to keep the interview focused on your strengths, value, and ability to solve problems for the organization.