Interview Help: Discussing Your Weaknesses

Many of us are not  comfortable discussing our weaknesses with anyone. Most interviews will always include the question, what is your weakness, the question is intended to be unsettling. This question was once described as "The Give us a reason for not giving you the job question." The original intention of the question was to ask for an honest response, and to test applicants for their ability to respond to the question. The "What are your weaknesses?" question became so common every employment advisory book started coming up with snappy replies to it.

Every advisory book in the late 90s came up with the same basic response of turning a "weakness" into a strength. Answers like "My weaknesses are that I care too much" were common. The question's value was being undermined, so the new version of the question because "What are your weaknesses that aren't disguised/hidden/excuses for describing strengths?"

The Value of Weakness

The real purpose of this question remains the intention to get a meaningful answer from the applicant. Think about this question because it can be valuable. Ask yourself: What are your actual weaknesses?

  • Are they a problem in your work?
  • Do they undermine your confidence on the job?
  • Do you have to fight them when trying to work?

That's what this question is really about, and it's not a bad idea to look at the question objectively. You can see why an employer would be interested in your weaknesses. Weaknesses on the job are what can cost you jobs and prevent  you from getting jobs.

Answering the Question

People understandably do not like talking about any sort of weakness. It's almost unthinkable to reveal a weakness to strangers. However, you can answer the question meaningfully, and honestly, with a considered reply. The "considered reply" is a real answer, which makes it more effective. A considered reply will have thought, honesty and reflect your personality. Be honest and sincere because it will show.

Sample Replies

When your interviewer asks you "What are your weaknesses that aren't concealed strengths," your answers should be honest and you should also express that you expect good standards from others. The weakness is your own expectations of others, not a performance issue of your own.  If you have a time management issues or challenges with organizations, be honest about your weakness and spell them out clearly. Then, emphasize your solution-oriented attitude by providing them about your ways of overcoming your shortcomings with special courses or books. Here are a few good responses:

  • "I've been asked this a few times, and had some time to think about it. I don't think I really have any weaknesses that seriously affect my own performance, like lack of confidence, or performance anxiety.
  • I don't know if this qualifies as a "concealed strength" or not. I have to say I react negatively to poor standards of work. It annoys me, and I don't hide it too well. My expectations react to that sort of situation."

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