Whether you are new to the job seeking field or are a seasoned professional, one interview question will always throw you a curve ball. The dreaded “what is your greatest weakness?” This sounds like an easy question, yet most interviewees freeze up as soon as it is asked. As a general rule, the question is typically asked toward the end of an interview, after you think you’ve nailed it. Employers do this to see how quick you think on your feet when posed with a question you do not have a ready answer for.
When asked, what is the most effective response? Below are helpful tips to help you prepare before the interview.
First, research at the company and evaluate their needs. Using websites such as ONET.Org or TagCrowd.com to gather and prioritize information places you above the competition. Another great spot to research is the company. Check the BBB website as well, detailing any complaints. If there are a few, take a look at the outcomes and how you could cut back on complaints or eliminate them completely.
Additionally, go to your favorite search engine, such as Google, and enter the company name. No doubt you will discover a trove of information about the company. You can even call the company itself and do an employee survey. Be careful what you ask, you want facts, not gossip.
Equipped with company research, compile a list of company issues and how you can resolve them. IF possible, incorporate an issue or two into the greatest weakness question. True enough, the questions you have may not help you answer the question: “What is your greatest weakness?” but it will give you an advantage when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions.
Then sit and write down what you consider a weakness in the workplace. Do not look at weakness in your personal life. Future employers do not want to hear about personal weaknesses. Keep your personal life separate as much as possible from you professional life. This will show the employer that you are focused on work, not problems at home.
Think about jobs you have had in the past, what you struggled with and how you coped. Once you’ve done this, pick the one you think would most benefit the employer (this is where previous company research comes in handy). Then state it in such a way that your weakness is seen as strength for the company.
For example, one of my biggest weaknesses is that I get too involved in the companies I work for. I get caught up in the day to day activities and find myself putting in more hours than intended and skipping lunch to keep working. I take it personal if the company takes a hit for whatever reason, and I look back through my work and those around me and blame myself for missing something. I have no problem being accountable for work that I’ve done incorrectly, or someone else who may have done something incorrectly as I feel I should have caught any errors before they turned into problems.
Notice in the above example how what I considered a weakness can be turned around to become an employer’s benefit. The interviewer will be thinking that I am very involved with work, care about the company, and be willing to do what needs to be done, even making sacrifices in my personal life to be there for the team. This would not be an erroneous assumption, it would be true and that is the key to comfortably answering the question.
CC Connection Tip of the Day: Stick to the truth, you won’t trip yourself up trying to lie; lying is not the way to get yourself employed.
Once you have determined how best to answer this question, you need to practice. Practice with a friend, relative, or in front of a mirror and edit to best reflect the value you offer. Watch facial expressions while practicing in the mirror; do you look scared or confident? Do you have no expression at all? How is your posture; slumped or straight and tall? It is not just the words that have an impact on your answers; your body language speaks much louder than words.
Reword the answer so that if you do have a sudden attack of the “uuummms,” you can fall back on an abbreviated answer. Ask for honest feedback if you practice with someone, and record yourself while practicing. Play back the first recording to yourself and do an objective self-evaluation by asking yourself three questions:
- Did your voice shake or vibrate when answering?
- Did you have good tone and inflection?
- Does it sound as if you’ve been rehearsing?
If you answer yes or no as appropriate to these questions, keep practicing. Also have someone else listen to your response. Be sure it is someone who is going to be honest and not afraid to hurt your feelings. Have them evaluate you based on the same three questions. It is best to have a second opinion, one that won’t be biased. Truth is, we are always more critical of ourselves then others. “Practice makes perfect,” as the expression goes. In this case, it is all too true.
Here’s a warning: You do not want your answer to sound practiced, so practice until you are comfortable with the answer, confident and contemplative.
When asked, don’t panic. Instead, take 2-3 seconds before answering. A slight pause gives the employer the impression you are seriously thinking about how to answer.
The best advice is to do your research. I sound repetitive but I cannot stress enough how proper research helps you prepare for an interview even if questions are asked that you didn’t prepare for.
When it comes to the interview process, knowledge is everything. The more you know about the company, the better armed you are for the interview.
If you have any questions or comments, let us know.
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