It’s the one that was always coming and yet the question that invariably causes the most interview headaches. As self-deprecating as we may be in our daily lives, it is surprising how uncomfortable many of us feel when faced with the question: “what do you consider your biggest weaknesses?”

While the temptation may be to go for an ingenious response that highlights how amazing you are under the cover of modesty and self-deprecation, what your interviewer is really testing you on is your self-awareness and how well you stand up to pressure. Here are some handy tips to help you safely navigate this potential interview stumbling block.

1. Don’t trot out the “I’m a perfectionist” line
Offering a weakness that is really a strength is an age-old tactic. Employers and recruiters have been listening to answers like these for years and they recognise there’s no sincerity in them. This kind of canned response also risks undermining the rapport you are trying to build with the person opposite you.

2. Identify a weakness you’ve worked to overcome
This is an effective technique for illustrating your resolve as well as a willingness to develop your professional skills. It’s also a much better way to put a positive spin on the question than the above “I’m a perfectionist” answer.

3. Stick to non-essential skills
Identifying a weakness that isn’t a major requirement in your day-to-day job is a low-risk option. For example, not possessing great presentation skills might be fine for a role which does not require much customer contact

4. Save the brutal honesty
Honesty may not always be the best policy when it comes to interviews. As you might expect, telling your assessor your biggest weakness is punctuality is unlikely to win you too many admirers. Your answers should be genuine, but be careful what you admit to.

5. Keep it strictly business
Don’t include any personal weaknesses. Interviewers do not want to hear about your private dramas. Don’t give them proof that personal issues will affect your job; stick to work-related weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to think of any weaknesses(!) try taking a personality or working styles assessment. It is really important that you understand the areas in which you are less strong if you are going to add value in a new work environment.

It’s good to prepare for these sorts of ‘dreaded’ questions so they don’t become your weak point in the interview, but be careful not to over rehearse your answer otherwise it won’t sound genuine. Remember, your interviewer is not looking for the perfect answer – your success depends far more on your ability to connect with them and build rapport.

Reference: Forbes; about.com; business.financialpost.com, Abintegro
16 Nov 2016
interview, skills

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