This is unarguably one of the most difficult of questions asked during interviews as it requires a response drawn from the deepest of thoughts. As with other questions asked in an interview, this question determines whether you are the right candidate for the job or not.
The ‘greatest weakness’ question falls under the behaviour-based interview questions – after testing candidates’ skills and how competent they are for a particular job. Employers tend to go slightly personal with prospective employees to determine how well they can work together with those they hire.
The truth is a well experienced interviewer must have heard over a thousand trite responses to this question. We (including your prospective employer) know no one is perfect, the interviewer expects you to disclose a weakness especially if you are a recent graduate with little or no work experience; hence, giving a wrong response could cast you in a bad light, as you may come across as displaying self-importance or as someone who doesn’t completely understand him/herself.
Essentially, there are four things you should do to answer this question.
You don’t wake up one morning and decide to ace an interview without adequately preparing. Just as it is wrong to have a general résumé/CV for every job application, same way it is very wrong to assume you’ll be asked the same set of questions in different interviews. While practicing, draft out a list of your strengths and weaknesses, and align each strength or weakness to the specific job or task. Except you are a soothsayer, you can’t predict what you’ll be asked during an interview; so it’s good you expect this question (along with several others), prior to the interview, and sedulously prepare than have prospective employers help you answer the question during interviews.
Sometimes the interviewer only wants to test how well you handle difficult questions and may not be bothered about your weakness. You qualified for the interview so you probably have something the particular Organisation needs. Merely displaying a positive attitude towards work could be all that you’d need to get that job so don’t get in a sweat about answering this question.
3. Build trust.
Creating a good first impression is a good step to building great relationships. A good smile, confident handshake, great personal appearance could be a starting point but a better advantage could come from this part of the interview where you admit a weakness, something to make your interviewer feel you can be trusted.
Be diplomatic in your response; make the end of your description a positive -don’t be defensive- give a strength that best matches the weakness or an assertion that you are working on that particular weakness. Make it easy for the interviewer to trust you but be careful not to make him/her have second thoughts about giving you that job you’ve hoped for.
4. Be yourself.
Trying to impress the interviewer by falsely claiming expertise- lying about a weakness- may deprive you chances of getting that job when the interviewer probes you to narrate an experience apropos the weakness or request that you talk about another weakness and your voice starts droning or you go mute. The key to answering this question is to mention a weakness that can be worked on and also show that you are paying attention to it. You could pick clues from several sample responses available in job-interview books and on the web but know what works for you and avoid giving clichéd responses, there are general questions and standards but there are no general responses; Interviewers know when they hear something new or the same thing differently. The best way to enjoy an interview is to be you. Also avoid beating about the bush by keeping your answers as succinct as possible.
One quick assignment- Spend the next few minutes to do a self-analysis; consider your strengths and weaknesses, think on how well you can leverage your strengths and the extent to which your weaknesses can affect your work and/or career goals. How have you been able to manage your weaknesses and what suggestions would you proffer to resolve them?
What would be your response to this question? Do share your comments/experience in the section below.