What is your biggest weakness?

about 5 years ago by Claire Smith

​Every interview is hard. If you've applied for a job, then the chances are you really want it and are keen to show your interviewer just what you can do. That makes for a nerve-wracking situation and is clearly not something you can just sail through stress-free (unless you're completely unflappable!).

However, some parts of the interview are harder than others, including the dreaded question about weaknesses. With a bit of preparation and thought beforehand, this doesn't need to be as daunting as many candidates believe. Trust us, you can get through unscathed and still demonstrate that you're the perfect person for the job.

So what should you do the next time you're asked 'what is your biggest weakness?' in an interview?

Let's face it, the last thing you want to do when you're trying to imply you're the best thing since sliced bread is admit that you have some kind of flaw. You don't want to give your interviewer any indication that you can't do the job by saying something like 'I'm not a morning person and struggle with 9am starts'.

The problem is that you also can't tell them you don't have any flaws, because a) it will look arrogant and b) the panel knows that everyone except Mary Poppins possesses them.

And these days, you can't fall back on the old favourites 'I work too hard' and 'I'm too much of a perfectionist' because they're over-used enough to be completely clichéd.

So, what can you say? Well, the main thing to remember is that you have to turn a negative into a positive. Before your interview, start by thinking about areas of your professional life that you haven't found easy yet have worked on.

Your potential employer wants to see self-awareness and self-improvement, so look for times when you made a mistake and corrected it or got praise from a manager for turning something around.

Have you ever enrolled in a class or applied for workplace training or workshops, for instance? This would indicate that you had identified a weakness and worked to make it better.

One great example would be something many people struggle with: speaking up in group situations. You could mention this and then say you have taken part in public speaking groups or open mic nights (as long as you have), or that you have made an effort to raise at least one point in meetings.

You can then conclude by explaining that this has helped your shyness and boosted your professional confidence.

To nail this question, remember that good candidates are always looking for ways to improve themselves and taking the initiative to ensure it happens. As long as you're self-aware and can show that weaknesses lead to improvements, you won't scupper your chances.