“What is your greatest weakness?” You could answer everything else right, but if you do not understand the purpose of this question and answer it powerfully, it can sink an otherwise fantastic interview. The real point of this question is to see how you have previously reacted in the face of difficulty as a consistent pattern. Recruiters believe past behavior is the best indication of future behavior. That is why there is an interview methodology coined “behavioral interviewing.” Think of this question as a probe to see how coachable you are—how willing you are to develop and grow. Are you honest with your interview? Are you honest with yourself? This question serves a lot of purposes for the employer, but their main agenda is to find the best candidate to fill the position, which costs the company money every day it remains unfilled.
Answering “what is your greatest weakness?” with a lie is unethical and could cost you the job, but answering too honestly could give a potential employer the impression that you don’t believe in yourself; and if you do not believe in yourself, the employer won’t either. An arrogant answer such as “I have no weaknesses,” or “I’m too perfect,” could also cost you the job. If you don’t volunteer a weakness, a potential employer won’t believe you. They will assume your weakness IS arrogance or that you are not coachable. In order to be coachable, you have to be able to acknowledge areas of development. Employers want to know if you will be an asset or a liability, in addition to making sure you will be a good fit and they MUST be able to believe you.
Determine your weaknesses
First, take stock of your weaknesses. We all have them and they are most likely areas of your professional life that you would like to improve. What currently challenges you? Is it a soft or a hard skill that you are lacking? Are you unfamiliar with technology? Do you shy away from public speaking? We are bound to have blind spots if we rely on our own perceptions of ourselves to identify our weaknesses. Part of our full-service branding includes a survey that is sent your trusted confidants, the people who know you best. It takes BRAVERY and HUMILITY to endure this process. It also demonstrates a dedication to growth. Imagine how impressed an employer will be, though, if you voluntarily participated in a 360 degree feedback. A 360 degree feedback is a process where employees receive confidential feedback from their managers and peers. This process allows employees to come to a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
Be honest with a potential employer
Be honest with your interviewer, but not too honest. Self-depreciation elicits sympathy, but not job offers. Once you find your weaknesses, neutralize any emotion (shame, guilt, etc.) from mentions of your weaknesses. The Sedona Method of releasing is one way to separate yourself from your weaknesses. There are also other methods, such as Christian Mickelsen’s Instant Miracle, and EFT, also known as tapping. The purpose of release is to free yourself from the emotional weight of your weaknesses. After you find and release your weaknesses, ask yourself a few questions. How has this challenge affected your work and what steps have you been taking to overcome the weakness? Are you taking classes? Are you reading books? Are you doing actively doing the task you dreaded? Have you engaged a coach? According to a 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client study, of the 2200 participants, over 99% of the professionals who used a career coach emerged either “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” from the experience.
Tell the interviewer how you have overcome or are overcoming the weakness and how you came to realize its impact on your performance. Demonstrate to your employer how you added value by confronting your weakness. The Sedona methods and the other methods mentioned are ways to help resolve these kinds of emotional challenges. Perhaps you were terrified of interacting with customers, but recognized your weakness and strove to work with them. Soon you had fewer issues interacting with customers and improved sales at your company. Think about your own experiences and stick to the facts.
Is your weakness a strength?
Perhaps your weakness is actually a strength. (Conversely, some strengths can be weaknesses, so be careful with this line of reasoning. As I mentioned earlier, statements such as “I’m too organized” or “I’m a perfectionist” could come off as arrogant to an interviewer.) For example, you may not have the experience for the position for which you are interviewing, but you sell your experience in other industries as something that will offer new insights as to how to accomplish tasks. In other words, you offer a potential employer a fresh perspective. If you try to spin your weakness as a strength without a real solution, you may strike your interviewer as disingenuous. Like everything else, state the problem, your solution, how you have practically applied that solution to your work, and what the outcomes and impacts have been.
The “What is your greatest weakness?” question is designed to discover your response to challenges. The point is not to show a potential employer that you are flawless—no one believes you are without flaws. Rather, employers want to hire people who know they are not perfect (because no one is), but are willing to acknowledge areas that can be developed as needed in a position and proactively seek out ways to grow.
Think about some of your greatest achievements. Were you successful because you already knew the solution, or did that great achievement come from finding a solution in the midst of the problem?