Answering Job Interview Questions About Your Weaknesses
One of the most difficult questions you'll face in a job interview is undoubtedly "What is your greatest weakness?".
When the hiring manager asks you this question, they're effectively handing you a gun and you can either show that you know how to handle it safely, or you can shoot yourself clean through the foot.
The interviewer is usually trying to find out a number of different things with this question. Firstly whether you can analyse your own skillset and be critical about where you need to improve. Secondly, they're looking for danger signals that may highlight a risk that you'll be unable to do the job, or won't fit into the team. Lastly, they may just be trying to see how you handle difficult questions, but handled in the wrong way, your answer could go against you.
This is one of the very few times when an indirect answer may be a more suitable approach, by turning the question into an opportunity to talk about positive things.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to talk about difficulties you've faced and how you overcame them. For example, you could talk about developing and maintaining your knowledge of the sector you work in, whether from a legal or technological perspective. Show them that you see this as a challenge and tell them what you're doing about it. This approach takes the potentially negative and turns it into a positive, showing the interviewer you are committed to on-going learning and development, and maintaining currency of knowledge. It also shows that you can think on your feet and you've shown that any weakness you may have in this area is really a strength, of concern only to those who know the industry very well.
Another effective approach is to talk about a past weakness that you overcame. Think of a previous role where you had to improve or where you put a plan in place to develop yourself and learn about a particular subject, technology or process, and talk about how you recognised the weakness and then put it behind you.
Again, this answers the question indirectly but clearly demonstrates an ability to not only recognise your own weaknesses, but to address them effectively.
You can also give a direct and honest answer if you have a genuine weakness in an area of work that you're sure will not affect the job you''re interviewing for. For example, if you feel you're weak around subjects like sales or finance, when the job you're doing will not be affected by these, or has no need for these skills. It would always be good to share with the interviewer how you addressed these weaknesses in previous roles, to leave your answer on a positive note.
Here's a great article from Forbes magazine on how to answer this question, taking some of the approaches here.
Remember, tricky questions like this don't need to spell the end of what could be a very successful job interview. With a little planning and thought, you can have a few ideas up your sleeve to help answer questions in the context of the interview conversation you're having.
Article Added: 09/10/2014
Posted By: Paul Docherty