… and what your response should be.
Yes, i know its a question loved by many hiring managers, but what’s the real purpose of asking an aspiring job applicant a question like this?
Some commentators believe that asking such a question can be like digging through CVs trying to find any reason why not to hire you. But there are 5 key reasons why you are asked this question. Addressing these 5 concerns is why answering this question appropriately can be a deal maker or breaker in getting your dream role.
Here’s what hiring managers really want to know when they ask about your biggest weakness:
1. They want to test your character. You should be honest in your reply — avoid a long list — but there needs to be something there that your references could corroborate, as your integrity and self awareness may be tested after the interview. Ensure you read the job description before you consider your answer, you don’t want to identify as a weakness something essential to the role. And if there is something there, maybe it isn’t the right role for you anyway.
2. They want to get a sense of your self-awareness. Your response should show the hiring manager that you objectively examine your own strengths and weaknesses. They want to hear that you’re aware of a genuine area for improvement and that you have a plan to work to mitigate this weakness. So you can actually answer the question truthfully, re-positioning the questions not as a weakness but as an area you are seeking to develop, address or mitigate. That you’ve learnt from previous mistakes and are capable of dealing with these in a mature way. HR managers want to hire someone who is aware of their personal development areas and is actively taking steps to grow in these areas.
3. They want to make sure you’re a real person. Your interviewer will want to hear a prompt and thoughtful answer but not something rote learned and parroted out. Try to avoid using cliché answers, like, “I’m too much of a perfectionist,” or “I work too hard” doesn’t fool anyone. You’ll want to think about your answer to this question beforehand so you don’t get flustered nor do you have a quick, pat answer.
4. They want to assess how you handle tough questions. So your response should not be overly general or flippant. Don’t ever say “I don’t know,” or, “Honestly, that is a tough question. I’m always doing my best.” And don’t give supposedly funny answers like, “I have a weakness for ice cream”.
5. They want to test your composure. Demonstrate an ability to keep your cool when put on the spot with a tough question like this one, just as you’ll do on the job.
The style of answer could be something like this that I saw online:
“One area that I’m continually trying to improve is prioritization. I’m someone who likes to gain lots of new experiences and work with new people, so I tend to say yes to too many projects and that’s created some issues for me in the past. I’ve been working on growing my project management and prioritization skills to make sure that whenever I take on something new, I’m confident I can meet deadlines and turn in work at the level of quality I expect from myself.”
They want to know you are self aware enough to have weaknesses and organised and proactive enough to want to do something about it, and to be assured that the weakness won’t affect your performance. Have you other reasons to answer this question or even better, a great reply to this, please share in our comments section.