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3 proven ways to answer the ‘what are your weaknesses’ question in a job interview

If any of the interview questions deserves your attention it’s this one. Why? Because the employer knows it’s a tough question and only the best answers will likely land the job. The difficulty with answering this question lies in the fact that you don’t want to give out your weaknesses and talk negatively about yourself during an interview – it’s kind of counter productive.

Before we get on to our example answers, here are the three things you should avoid when answering this question.

Answers which are fundamental to the role: You should not give a weakness which would directly affect your ability to do the job. For example, you wouldn’t say you were terrible with numbers when applying for a job as an accountant. So avoid an answer which would prove to the employer that you shouldn’t be hired.

Answers which are irrelevant: It may seem like a great idea to provide an answer which isn’t relevant, but you can’t and shouldn’t dodge the question. The employer is looking for work related weaknesses and nothing else matters. For instance, you can’t say ‘I should go to the gym more often as I’m not very fit’.

Weaknesses that can’t be fixed: Don’t provide a weakness which can’t be fixed. Every answer you give should be rectifiable with a little hard work and determination. You need to present yourself as someone who actively seeks development and is honest about their mistakes. If you provide a weakness that can’t be fixed, then you are likely to be rejected.

Now that you understand the basic fundamentals of how to answer this question, here are our 3 examples.

I am too hard on myself sometimes

You may be a bit of a perfectionist and always expect the best from yourself. This is a good thing at times, but in certain situations this may cause issues. Your answer should explain how you occasionally lack a bit of confidence in your own abilities, and you have a need to double check everything. Talk about how hard you are on yourself sometimes and how that can affect your mood.

Like every answer you give you should then go on to explain what you are doing to improve upon this weakness. The employer wants to know that you are not going to relax and accept this. With this particular answer you can explain how you are striving to become more confident in your own abilities.

I don’t always like to take risks

Explain how cautious you are at times and that taking risks is quite difficult for you. Depending on the role, you may need to be careful not to lay this one on too thick. For example, if you are applying for a sales position you need to ensure you don’t ruin your chances by saying that you never take any risks. A sales role would require you to take some risks, so how you explain this answer is important.

Some company’s would see risk taking as an absolute no-go, so the role you are applying for may benefit you with this weakness. Tweak your answer to suit and explain how you are looking to build up your confidence and take a few chances now and again. It could relate to an idea you had but didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.

I don’t always ask for help

This example answer could relate to your inability to ask for help. So instead of seeking guidance from another team member or your manager, you have the tendency to try and fix things yourself. Sometimes your pride gets in the way and you are not always able to admit you’ve made a mistake and need help.

What you’ve learned from this weakness is that you are more open to help and to ask for it. You realise that teamwork and seeking guidance is more important to the company. Getting the job done efficiently and accurately is the key to success, and you want to put your ego to one side and see the bigger picture.

Give examples of when this has happened and what the outcome was. You can do this for all your answers, but remember to also provide examples of how you’ve improved. The employer wants you to be honest with your weaknesses but wants to see what you’re doing about them.

Nobody is perfect, and the CEO of the company could hold their hands up and admit they have many faults. It’s what you do about your mistakes and how honest about them that counts. If you think you’re perfect and have no work related weaknesses – then think again. No employer will hire you with that attitude.

Check out our ultimate guide to job interview questions here.

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