When an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, it can be a bit nerve wracking to answer. It seems almost unfair to have to share your unfavorable qualities when you’re trying to outshine the competition; however, the way you handle this portion of the interview can distinguish you from the crowd. This is standard practice in any interview, so be prepared to share information about areas you’re working to improve on. There are several approaches you can take when describing your weaker qualities that help show self-awareness while simultaneously emphasizing your strengths.
Address Your Weakness With Confidence
Employers know that no one is perfect; much of the purpose of asking about weaknesses lies in how you handle the question. While it’s important to show that you’re human and can recognize areas that need improvement, you also don’t want to come across as unreliable or inexperienced. Answering with confidence shows employers that you don’t view these qualities as obstacles and have learned how to use them in your favor. If you have a problem keeping track of time, you can explain how you’ve learned to set alerts on your phone and computer to ensure that you’re on time. Though timekeeping may not be your strength, sharing an anecdote like this demonstrates how you’ve adapted and learned to work with your weaker qualities.
Having a sense of humor about a weakness can also demonstrate confidence to a prospective employer. Though you shouldn’t be flippant about the fact that you have weaknesses, there is already an understanding not all areas can be strengths. Laughing and saying that you are “terrible with deadlines” probably won’t be funny to an interviewer, but lightheartedly describing your distaste for grammar will have little impact on most positions.
Turn Your Negatives Into Positives
There’s a saying about how the thing you love most about a person is also the thing you hate. The same principle applies to weaknesses: the qualities that drive you to be a better employee can sometimes hold you back. During an interview you can use this tactic to show an employer how a negative quality also has benefits. For example, if you have a hard time stopping in the middle of projects, you can describe how your need for completion pushes you to complete work before you leave the office. While being able to stop and start projects is important, being willing to work beyond hours that are expected is also admirable. Holding yourself to a high standard is another quality that can be inhibiting, but also produce a better quality of work.
Your Strengths Matter Most
While you can’t avoid the question, you can creatively list weaknesses that have little relevance to the job for which you’re interviewing. If you’re interviewing for a job that doesn’t involve computers, admitting that you’re a poor typist won’t have a heavy impact on your ability to work productively. Conversely, if you are in more of a desk environment, the fact that you are a terrible navigator is of little consequence. Choose a weakness that still shows self-awareness, but won’t risk eliminating you from the pool of job candidates.
A negative characteristic that is completely unrelated to the job might come across as a tactic to avoid answering the question. Before the interview, consider qualities that would make a candidate successful in the position as well as limitations that might prevent an employee from doing quality work. You can also put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and consider what strengths and weaknesses you might look for in a prospective hire. Once you’ve come up with a list of both positive and negative qualities, brainstorm answers that align your traits with the positives. Choose weak areas that apply to the position, but wouldn’t be considered a deal breaker. For example, if you were applying to work in the foodservice industry, describing struggles with impatience or hygiene would be hard to spin as a benefit. On the other hand, describing how you’ve come up with systems to help you remember names better won’t keep you from getting the job and show that you work systematically.
When it comes to discussing weaknesses, it’s easy to start squirming. Instead of letting this question get the best of you in an interview, take time in your preparations to brainstorm how you can highlight your strengths and use weaker qualities to your advantage. The more creative and introspective you can be, the more you can demonstrate competency and self-awareness to prospective employers.