A few weeks ago I was interviewing students during a career fair at a local college, on behalf of a business client.
The interview process was structured like speed dating and as the group of 50+ students rotated through the tables, we conducted short interviews with them over the course of two days.
The results were fascinating as I asked my favorite interview question time and time again and then listened to the answers that were shared.
“Share with me, two of your weaknesses.”
Most of the students had come prepared to share one weakness, but were caught off guard by being asked to share a second weakness. Even though some of them recovered quickly, I could see on their faces that they’d not expected me to ask the question in that way.
Now, I’ll let you in on a secret – I really didn’t care what they said their weaknesses were, I just hoped not to hear one of two answers:
One concerning answer would be for them to say they had no weaknesses. In saying this, they would be unknowingly revealing a significant weakness… a lack of realistic humility. (Seriously…. who has no weaknesses? I know I do!)
The other answer that’s a red flag is giving a pretend weakness.
> I consider a pretend weakness to be a strength portrayed as a weakness in order to avoid being cast in a negative light. For example, “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much.” These answers actually work in the opposite way, bringing a caution to the minds of employers as they hear them.
In addition to gauging an individual’s self-awareness when it comes to their weaknesses, I’m also mining for insight in these areas:
• How do they think when put in a high-pressure situation?
• What level of emotional maturity do they operate in? (a sign of maturity is to recognize and be able to verbalize your weaknesses)
• Are they a humble or arrogant individual?
• How effective is the advice of authorities and advisors in their life?
• Do they recognize and admit their weaknesses or refuse to acknowledge them and blame others?
• Do they seek self-improvement in their areas of weakness?
• Will they be willing to listen and apply advice from managers during job training in order to improve in their job functions?
So, we’ve talked about what not to say in response to a question about your weaknesses. Now, let’s look at a few things to remember when responding, and how to come up with an answer which will be tactful and honest.
First of all, know your strengths and your weaknesses.
>When you know your strengths, you most likely will be more comfortable acknowledging your weaknesses.
Second, be prepared to share an authentic weakness.
>After sharing your weakness, add that you’re working on that particular weakness and explain what approach you’re taking to improve in this area.
Third, think through how you can word your weaknesses, when sharing them.
>A weakness can sound more positive or negative, depending on how you word it. For example, instead of saying “I hate people,” try something like “I’m on the shy side, but I’m working to push myself out of my comfort zone and get to know people I don’t know.”
Finally, practice how you might answer that question, and others, before you go in for your interview.
>Role play with a person or two you trust, practice sharing your answers out loud, and be open to their honest feedback.
Remember, being able to authentically share your weaknesses can, in the eyes of an employer, be seen as one of your greatest assets, and over time, will help you succeed in the career of your choice.
To your success-