The Always Popular Question: What’s Your Weakness?

Interviewing

Last weekend, I was a presenter at a student organization leadership conference attended by approximately 1,000 university students. I delivered two workshops that focused on how these university students could utilize their leadership skills and leverage them to engage in effective career planning, including job hunting.

The workshops went well, and the students were engaged, especially when I got to talking about personal branding and career planning. I’ll share what I shared in the workshops in a future post, but for this post, I wanted to share a topic that came up that generated quite a bit of interest in one of the workshops.

I was talking about how it is never too early when career planning to become very familiar with commonly asked interview questions. But being familiar with these questions is just part of the equation. Another important part is to become very comfortable in being able to actually answer these questions well, knowing that to reach that comfort level takes practice and experience.

After collecting commonly asked interview questions from the students, one particular student asked the often-asked question:

What’s the best response to the interview question, “What are your greatest weaknesses?

A lively discussion ensued, and though I had to switch gears and move on to other topics, I think that spending the time that we did on this question was worthwhile. As we shared various strategies to consider when answering this question, my closing point on this topic was something like: “Yes, be knowledgeable about what’s typically considered good types of answers to the ‘weakness’ question. But at the same time, be sure to be genuine with your own response. That way, you can feel good about your answer and not have to worry about whether or not the interviewer liked your response.”

I was reminded about how much interest there typically is about this often dreaded interview question. Accordingly, there was a post about this question several days after the workshops on the “Get to Work” blog from the San Francisco Chronicle’s online website (SFGate), which captured a lot of what we discussed in the workshop.

I laughed out loud at one of the comments from the SFGate post, with which I’ll end this post.

My favorite response to the “What is your biggest weakness?” question is:

Pause…”Ummmmm, I’d have to say chocolate.”




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2 comments for “The Always Popular Question: What’s Your Weakness?

  1. Tyler Page
    March 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I think that this question is a very difficult question that catches a lot of people off guard, especially those not familiar with the interview process. I remember the first time I got this question at a job interview, and I froze. I eventually got my mouth to say something coherent and not to horrible sounding, but my approach to the question was definitely my weakest link, though my answer was not too far behind. My point here is that actually thinking about these questions can really make the question much more simple and natural to answer. There is also the added benefit that you will know more about yourself, and in the case of a question like this you will know your weaknesses an be able to make them less weak so to speak before you get asked the question. So instead of answering well I cannot write with my left hand, you might be able to answer well, I’m not great at writing with my left hand but I’ve been working on it and I can write a paragraph so far and I’m always improving. I would choose the latter of the two candidates if writing with your left hand was something I was looking for in an employee (someone who knows their weakness and addresses them instead of just letting them be).

    • Andy
      March 29, 2011 at 10:05 am

      That’s it, Tyler. Very well stated.

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