Interview questions may come and go based on trends in human resources, but one query typically made of applicants will likely never go away:
“What’s your biggest weakness?”
It’s funny, though. As often as it has been asked, and as often as it will continue to be asked, there are still far too many job candidates who are woefully ill-prepared for the question when it’s posed.
And there’s just no excuse for that.
An article over at CNBC by contributor Suzy Welch addresses how to deal with the uncomfortable question, and says that even though the inquiry may seem “tired,” you have to take it seriously.
“[Interviewers] ask about your greatest weakness,” she says, “because they want to hear your answer demonstrate character traits that are essential to high performance in any job.”
According to Welch, the best answers to the question reflect the following four traits: Self-awareness; authenticity; discretion; and initiative.
Regarding self-awareness, Welch says that the hiring manager, astute person he or she is, is likely going to be able to tell from your resume, interview(s), and references what it is with which you struggle. What they’re going to want to hear is if YOU know what your weaknesses are.
As for authenticity, Welch says that “humble-brag” kinds of responses like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” are terrible.
“Answers like ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I’m a workaholic’ are the red flags of phoniness,” she cautions. “And no one likes to work with a phony.”
Don’t try to be clever - just give a real answer.
Discretion refers to knowing “the difference between a work weakness and a personal weakness,” Welch says. Answering the question with a personal weakness, particularly if it prompts you to expound on a problem in your personal life, is going to be a turn-off to employers.
Lastly, your answer should demonstrate that you’ve taken some initiative to repair the weakness.
“No matter what weakness you name, the important thing is what you say about what you've already done to fix it,” Welch says, “and how you plan to continue that process in the new position.”
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large