Being interviewed can be a nerve racking experience. It is even more challenging when you realize that many questions have hidden meaning. However, if you are able to recognize what is really being asked, you can provide stronger answers that focus on what they really want to know.
Perhaps the most intimidating question you can be asked during an interview is about your shortcomings. If the interviewer asks you what negative thing your last boss would say about you, it may seem like there is no positive answer. They likely are not interested in what the answer is, but the way you answer is very telling. Having a reasonable reaction is your best option.
Points to Emphasize
Because the way you answer is the most important aspect of this question, there are many subtle qualities you should have in your answer.
- Be honest. It may be tempting to try to come up with an answer that you think they want to hear, but they really want to hear a truthful answer. Pick a weakness that will not interfere with your ability to do the work.
- Take this opportunity to communicate that you are open to improvement. You should follow the weakness up with reassurance that you are already working on improving yourself. This translates well into review in other areas.
- Healthy people recognize that they are not perfect. If you are willing and open about your shortcomings, it shows that you are not prideful.
- You can also demonstrate your reasonable attitude.
Mistakes You Should Avoid
There are many ways you could mess up, especially with a question as complicated as this one. These are some of the most common mistakes people fall into.
- Do not refuse to answer. Saying you cannot think of any negative aspects makes it sound like you are embarrassed or hiding something much worse.
- It may be tempting to say something positive disguised as a weakness, such as “I work too hard”. This is also not really answering the question. Interviewers will not fall for it.
- Never reveal a serious weakness. You should pick something that is minor and will not affect your ability to do the work.
- Do not rush. Once again, this communicates embarrassment or a hidden serious issue.
A possible strong answer might be similar to this:
I sometimes feel nervous when speaking in front of large groups of people. I am actually practicing my public speaking skills so I can become better at addressing crowds. It did not come up often at my previous work, so I was still able to do my job.