It’s the question we all dread. The interview is going well and you really feel like you’re in with a chance at the job. Then their lips form the question from hell as they ask you about your weaknesses. You don’t want to say you have none, because that makes you sound arrogant. You also don’t want to reel off a list of everything you feel is wrong with you either, because this can show a lack of confidence.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: they want you to highlight an area in which you are weak but in a way that makes your weakness sound like an opportunity for learning and growth. Here are some examples of things you may feel apply to you, and how to flip them upside down to make them sound like you are the number one employee?
A Gap In Your Employment History
We all have one, and this can appear as a weakness if you are applying for your first job after a break. Maybe you had a period of ill-health, stayed home with your children, cared for a relative, or took a career break to travel. Think hard about what you actually did during this time. All these circumstances provided you with an opportunity for growth and improvement.
Carers, whether for young or old people, often emerge with a renewed sense of patience, as well as the capability to be incredibly organised for more than just yourself. You are also often humbled by the experience and it can improve empathy and compassion which is an asset to everyone seeking employment, and indeed to every company.
If you travelled, how did you fund it? Or were you just unemployed for an extended period? Both circumstances require working from a limited budget and drastically improves money management skills. Whatever the role you’re applying for, if you’re able to watch the pennies and prevent waste and loss, or make the most of the resources you have, you’ll go down a treat.
If you had a period of ill-health, legally an employer or future employer cannot penalise you for it. Regardless, this might be the one thing you don’t mention until after you have secured employment.
You Are Especially Self-Critical
An amount of this is normal, but for those who are especially self-critical, it can be detrimental to work speed as you constantly review and revise to achieve perfection. You can work this to your advantage though – in many professions, perfectionism is a desirable quality. You could say something like “I am my harshest critic, however it means I take great care over my work and strive for perfection”.
You’re a Bit of a Chatterbox
If working in a busy, high pressure, high stress environment, the last thing an employer wants is someone coming in chatting constantly about rubbish. You can put a positive spin on this though, by saying you are able to knuckle down and work hard, but your chatty, friendly nature helps enormously when establishing a rapport with clients and customers.
You’re New To The Industry
Career change? Lacking experience? That’s incredibly common and unfortunately more experienced applicants often get the job. Highlight the skills you do have that are relevant that set you apart from other candidates and emphasise that you are eager to learn and highly motivated.
If you lack one of the key skills for the job, focus on how you plan to overcome this, whether that means working extra hard to master it or whether you shadow another employee to help you in the beginning. Do you need to take night classes? Have you already enrolled or will you enrol once the position is secure?
The Bottom Line
Nobody is perfect, and how you answer this question is only a small part of the interview. There are so many other factors that will go into the decision to hire you or not, but if you can place a positive spin on your weaknesses, you’re a step ahead of the crowd.