“Tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge?”  “What are your professional goals?”  “Tell me a little bit about your work experience.”   The interviewer keeps throwing the questions at you, and you feel like you’re batting a thousand.  Then, out of nowhere, the curve ball…. the dreaded “What’s your biggest weakness?” question.  Quite the conundrum this question has posed for many unsuspecting interviewees.  It feels so much like a trick question.  Do you really reveal to them your biggest weakness?  Will they want to hire you still?  What if you say you have no weakness?  Then are you running the risk of not sounding genuine?
Now your perfect batting has got you in quite the pickle.  How will you get out of it?  Thankfully, there are interviewing experts out there that are poised to help you out with this difficult question.  Below is Jennifer Burn’s advice on how to tackle the question “What is your greatest weakness?”

Answer With a Strength

Every cloud has a silver lining. And within every negative trait, there is also a component that can be seen as a positive. For example, if you find that you get frustrated with people who don’t work as quickly or as thoroughly as you do, it demonstrates that you have high standards, are efficient, and pay close attention to detail. Offer both sides of the coin, by mentioning how your weakness can be helpful at times and how you are learning to deal with it.

Offer a Former Weakness

Nothing says maturity like a little self-awareness. Being able to demonstrate how you’ve improved on a less desirable trait can make you eminently hirable. When you first began college, did public speaking make you nervous? However, after taking Com 101 where you were forced to make a speech each week, did you hone your communication skills and become more comfortable speaking in front of groups? Acknowledging how you’ve learned from the past shows that you are constantly looking to polish your performance.

Consider a Less Important Weakness

Not all weaknesses put you in equal jeopardy for not being hired. While you don’t want to come up with something out of left field (such as “I don’t speak a foreign language” for a job at a small local company), you can focus on an area that you are working to overcome, but is not part of the core skill set needed for the job. For a computer programming position, admitting that you’ve been working on your writing skills can be seen as less of a threat for the position, but as a sign of self-improvement.

Working With What You Have

No matter what you choose to say, focusing on what you’ve done to work on your shortcomings always puts a positive spin on your answer. In asking the “weakness” question, sometimes employers just want to see how you handle stress and how well prepared you are. Although there is no single right way to answer the question, there are several wrong ways. Here are some things not to do:
  • Provide an answer that is only a strength
    Your interviewer wants to see that you are self-aware and how you are working to improve yourself; so you should probably avoid the word “perfectionist.” Employers can see this response coming a mile away. (And might assume that you are exaggerating to get the job.) Then you will be stuck scrambling for another answer at the last minute, and chances are, you won’t be happy with what you blurt out.
  • Say you don’t have any weaknesses
    An attempt to be funny or glib will likely backfire. Nobody is perfect, especially current students or recent college graduates going on job interviews! Employers would not ask this question if they didn’t expect you to come up with an answer.
  • Offer an answer that shows lack of motivation or ambition
    If you answer by saying you are a procrastinator or lazy, these are definite red flags to someone who is looking to hire you. This shows employers that you are not ready to make the transition from student to professional. The job interview isn’t the time to present your biggest character flaws or air your dirty laundry.