Hiring managers love the question “What’s your biggest weakness?” because it tells them at least three different things about you:
- Are you self-aware?
- Are you honest?
- Is your “flaw” something they can live with?
If you answer “I work too hard for my own good” or “I’m my own worst critic,” you don’t show honesty or self-awareness and you don’t give the interviewer a clue about whether your flaw will work OK with the job they need to get done. So it’s important you give an honest answer, one that shows you know yourself, are addressing your weakness and have no problem so big it will interfere with your work.
Here are the keys to sharing a weakness:
- Prepare for the question in advance. It is likely to be asked.
- Pick a personality trait that might be a shortcoming in one situation, but not necessarily a bad thing in another
- Give an example of where it was problematic
- Share how you work to manage the trait
- Give an example of where you used it to your advantage
For example, suppose you are sensitive to criticism. This can be a problem if it causes you to over react to negative feedback. It can also be a good thing if it makes you responsive and allows you to improve. To present this “weakness” you would:
- Say you take criticism very seriously or very much to heart, avoiding a charactarization such as “over sensitive to criticism”
- Share a story where this caused you to over react but then explain how you got back on track
- Relate a success story where the right level of response allowed you to improve the end product
This answer shows self-awareness (I know I have this trait), honesty (it was a problem in one circumstance) and makes the weakness look manageable or even positive (it was helpful in the second example).
Craft your own response based on a real weakness you are working to manage. Be sure to share how your weakness can be an advantage if properly channeled. Now test your response by asking:
- Is it honest?
- Does it show self-awareness?
- Does it present your weakness as something that your manager can live with?
More answers to challenging interview questions: