Episode 52: Talking Interviews – the Weakness Question


During your interview, you are inevitably going to be asked about your weaknesses. It’s unlikely that you will be asked straight out, but you should expect the question to come in some form or other.

The first thing to remember when you’re asked this question is that the interviewers know that the perfect candidate does not exist Your interviewer is looking for more than weaknesses in your answer.

So, here are a few things the interviewer is looking for when you answer the weakness question:

  • Honesty: Nearly everyone takes the same line when answering the weakness question: they use a strength that can be perceived as a weakness – such as being too much of a perfectionist. Hiring managers can see right through this, instead they are looking for someone who can discuss their weaknesses openly and honestly (but you should know how to do this).
  • Introspection: If you’re unable to come up with a credible weakness or a task that you didn’t perform well, interviewers are going to be slightly suspicious. It shows that you’re either trying to hide something, or that you are unable to properly assess your own work.
  • Ability to grow: If you have nothing to learn when coming into a new job, employers may worry that you won’t be fulfilled in that job, and that you won’t be happy at the company for very long. Now, sometimes a company will be happy that you have nothing to learn – for example, when they want you to come straight in and perform a specific task – but the majority of companies want long-term employees, in which case weaknesses can be quite positive.
  • Good presentation: Though companies want you to give an honest assessment of your weaknesses, they will want it to be presented in the right way.

So how should you prepare and present your weaknesses?

I always say to prepare five cases, so that if the interviewer wants to press the subject then you are able to give them some good answers. It also means that you can select the right weaknesses to use on each occasion.

In terms of presentation, you present your weaknesses using the three Ps: past, process, and present. Here’s what I mean:

  • Past: What was your weakness?
  • Process: What did you do – or what are you doing – to overcome that weakness?
  • Present: What positive results came out of the work you put into solving your weakness?

To put this into perspective, let’s look at a fairly simple example:

  • Past: When I started my sales career, I was impatient to be out talking to my clients, developing deals and negotiating contracts. I didn’t have the patience to do the admin side of the client relationship management. I avoided crises because I have a good memory, but I eventually realised that my approach was unsustainable and that I needed to keep my CRM up to date.
  • Process: I had to look at my time management and manage my frustration in order to make dedicated time after every client contract to make notes in the CRM system – notes that were not just clear to me but also to my colleagues.
  • Present: Now I make sure that I do this every time. It still frustrates me, but I see the value not just to me but also to my business. My clients get a good service and they tell me that is a real positive for them.

With this example: I acknowledge a failing, show why it was a failing not just to me but to the business, showed that I was able to correct or manage a failing, and I kept the example business-focused.

If you take this approach when working up examples of your weaknesses then you will have compelling stories to give your interviewer.

Good luck with your interviews and if you have questions, please let me know.



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