Define Your Weaknesses

Focusing on the Positive

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I can’t think of any other interview question that flusters a student more than, “please describe your weaknesses”. At first this may seem like a pretty scary question but once you understand that it’s just another chance to show your strengths, it will become much easier to answer.  If you take the time to prepare for the interview, this is really another opportunity to make yourself shine and can put you ahead of other candidates.

This question is not about telling the interviewer about all of the weaknesses you perceive in yourself and that you are normally late with deadlines, that you are a procrastinator, or that you have problems working in a team environment.  While answering this questions you will need to quickly state your weakness, show your awareness of this weakness, and then spend the majority of time discussing how you’ve worked to overcome it.  You will not only be answering the question as asked, but you showing the interviewer that you’ve learned the best way to turn things around oftentimes with just a little effort.

When answering this question it’s important to maintain positive body language and a strong verbal tone.  You will also want to show confidence by not letting the question throw you. The answer to this question needs to be practiced repeatedly until you feel comfortable that your answer shows something positive about you so that the interviewer feels that you are the right person for the job.

When asking this questions employers want to see if you have any weaknesses that would keep you from doing a good job for the company, plus they equally want to witness your ability to handle tough questions.  If you’ve prepared for the interview, this question will be easy as you will already know what you are going to say before it comes up.

As in the, “what are your greatest strengths question?”, this is another chance to make yourself shine by turning your weakness into a strength which will provide another reason for the interviewer to want to hire you. It’s best to pick weaknesses that are irrelevant or that you can turn around and make it a strength.

For this question you always want to provide a 3-step answer:

  1. Acknowledgement
  2. Self-Awareness
  3. Restoration

Using the illustrations above you might answer this question by saying:

WEAKNESS #1

Acknowledgement:

I have always been a very detail oriented person and this has been a strength of mine in many academic and work environments. On the other hand, I’ve realized that being so detail oriented takes a lot of time and is not always required to do a good job.

Self-Awareness:

While in college I found that I had to divide my time and effort to many different projects; and although I always handed in excellent work, I didn’t always need to spend as much time as I did on one project. I learned quite quickly that there are details that are important and others that do not require as much attention.

Restoration:

I have learned how to better prioritize my time and projects so that most important assignments received the most attention and then I would give adequate time to other assignments that needed to get done.

WEAKNESS #2

Acknowledgement:

In the past I always found myself procrastinating when I had commitments that needed to be done on time. As a procrastinator I always got my work in on time but I spend lots of nights working just to get the project completed in order to make the deadline.

Self-Awareness:

The problem with procrastination is that it causes a lot of unnecessary stress and can cause you to not hand in your best work.

Restoration:

Once I identified that this was getting to be a bigger problem once I entered college, I learned how to pace myself in order to have the work completed early so that I had time to review the project and was able to hand in my best work. This has resulted in less stress and higher grades in all of my classes.

WEAKNESS #3

Acknowledgement:

Although I was pretty good when doing work independently, I began to notice that I did not do as well when working in a team.

Self-Awareness:

I often found myself making independent decisions and couldn’t understand why my teammates didn’t follow my directions.  Over time I realized that working in a team meant consulting with all members and then coming up with a mutual decision on ways to proceed with the project at hand. College has  given me many opportunities to work with other students and I think, other than good grades I received in the classroom, this is the area where I grew the most during my college years.

Restoration:

Since I’ve completed many team projects during my time in college, I’ve learned the importance of communication and the need to consult with all members of the team. I now look forward to team projects where I usually avoided them in the past.

It's important to be prepared so that whatever question you are asked that you are able to provide an answer that shows your strengths and what you have to offer the company. The, what is your greatest weakness question, is no different. One you've mastered how to answer this question, you will find that you look forward to interviewing more and you will feel much less intimidated.

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