7 Secrets on How to Answer “The Weakness Question” Like a Pro
By Pete Leibman
Everyone hates "the weakness question," but you should LOVE it! Most job candidates butcher their chances of getting hired by how they answer this potentially deadly question. When you know how to answer it confidently and competently, you can really differentiate yourself from the competition.
Before we discuss the seven secrets on how to answer this question, let's discuss the three main reasons why employers ask this question. First of all, they feel like they have to ask this; most interviewers are not very creative. Secondly, they want to see how you respond under pressure; they know this is a question most people don't really want to answer. Lastly, they want to see if you will actually say something that gives them a reason to remove you from consideration.
The following are seven secrets for hitting a home-run when you are asked "the weakness question."
1. Start with some self-deprecating humor
This is a great way to put everyone at ease before you respond with your real answer. Find a playful, but professional and relevant way to poke fun at yourself first.
2. Be calm, confident, and concise
Answer this question in 30-60 seconds (max) and maintain good posture and eye contact while you answer. The longer you talk, or the more you move around or squirm, the more likely you will say something verbally or with your body language that can hurt you.
3. Sandwich your weakness
Start by highlighting one of your main strength(s), then address a weakness, and then end with a quick reminder of your strength(s).
4. Discuss a weakness that is irrelevant
Highlight a skill or knowledge base not relevant to the work you would be doing in this position.
5. Demonstrate how you are trying to improve
Mention a step (or steps) you are taking to address the weakness.
6. NEVER mention anything very relevant or alarming
This sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed at what some people say under pressure when they have not thought about this question ahead of time.
7. Gently flip this question back on the interviewer
The best interviews are two-way conversations that resemble a leisurely game of tennis, as the "ball" (i.e. questions and answers) gets hits back and forth.
Let's pretend I'm interviewing for a job in outside sales with a professional basketball team. Here is an example of how this might play out.
Pete, what is your biggest weakness?
Well, my jump shot is not what it used to be. (Smile.) Seriously though, one of my biggest strengths is my strong communication and persuasion skills, as proven by my three-time number-one ranking in the sales department for the last professional basketball team I worked for. However, one area I am trying to improve is my knowledge of how major companies can leverage social media. I have been reading [insert book name or other resource here] to learn more about that topic. Having said that, my strong communication and persuasion skills are a main reason why I believe I could increase this department's revenue from day one. I'm curious. Since we're talking about weaknesses, what do you think is your department's greatest weakness?
About the Author
PETE LEIBMAN is a career expert and professional speaker. He is also the president of Idealize Enterprises. He can be contacted at Pete@IdealizeNow.com, by visiting www.IdealizeNow.com, or at www.linkedin.com/in/peteleibman. His blog is available at http://CareerMuscles.Wordpress.com.