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Why do employers ask you this question in the first place? There are typically three reasons a hiring manager is going to ask you these questions:
Everyone has weaknesses. However, recruiters want to know that you understand those weaknesses and that you’ll be able to work on and improve them during your time with the company. Additionally, they want to make sure their team’s weaknesses are spread out in different areas. One team member’s weakness may be another team member’s strength.
To answer this question successfully, you need to have three important components.
First, you need to have self-awareness. This isn’t a question that you can wait until the last minute to answer. You should take some time to think about your weaknesses and decide upon what your biggest weakness is. If during the job interview you’re struggling to come up with an answer, the recruiter may think you do not know yourself well enough.
Next is honesty. You need to talk about a genuine weakness, not a strength disguised as a weakness. Everyone’s heard the classic trick of trying to insist that “being a perfectionist” is truly your greatest weakness. A good weakness to list in this section is something that’s actually had a negative impact on your life. Although you don’t want to list anything that really gets in the way of your ability to do a good job, you do want to list something you’ve noticed in your life.
Lastly, you need to include how you’re improving in this area. The greatest weakness question is technically only asking you about the trait you have a hard time with and how you’re trying to improve yourself in this area. A thoughtful answer can actually impress a recruiter. Talk about the steps you’ve been taking at your last or current job to improve and what you’re hoping to do in your new job to continue improving.
If you’re not quite sure where to start, looking at a list of areas where many people struggle may help you find skills you’re not great at. Here is a list of weaknesses you might want to discuss:
Remember, you can’t just choose a random item from this list and say it’s your weakness. Chances are, an interviewer is going to ask follow-up questions about this weakness. If you can’t answer those follow-up questions, the interviewer is going to know you’re not being truthful, and that’s never a good result. Find a genuine weakness and talk about it.
“What is your greatest weakness?” is one of the most common job interview questions. However, an interviewer may ask it in a different way, like any of these:
Often, this interview question is paired with questions about your greatest strength. If you hear an interview question asking about areas you’re weak in, a past failure or even your greatest strengths, you’re probably going to include your greatest weakness.
This is a common tactic, but interviewers know about it. “I’m hyper-focused on doing quality work” or “I sometimes struggle with work-life balance and work too much” aren’t real weaknesses. They’re strengths disguised as weaknesses—at least from a recruiter’s perspective. Remember, everyone has weaknesses, and it’s okay to admit a weakness in your interview. You just need to showcase that you’re working on it and it’s not going to impact your ability to do work.
If you have weaknesses in specific areas that the job description highlights, it’s best to stay away from talking about those. For example, if the job description says they’re looking for job seekers who are detail-oriented, you don’t want to list attention to detail as one of your weaknesses. Make sure you know what they’re looking for so you don’t accidentally list a crucial skill as one of your greatest weaknesses.
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