career coaching maThere are a number of interview questions that strike terror in the heart of a job seeker. The one that evokes the most dread is “what is your greatest weakness.” For those of you in career transition, take heart. This question is not as difficult to answer as you may think.

Why is the question asked?

Interviewers want to increase the probability of making a good hire. Asking this question enables them to uncover if you lack a competency that could effect your ability to do the job. Short of that, they want to know if you fit with the values and culture of the organization. One way they can assess your fit is by probing your honesty and self-awareness.

How not to answer the question

It’s commonly advised to turn a strength into a weakness such as “I work to hard,” or “I never say no when asked to help out.” Interviewers see through this in a nanosecond. Don’t do it.! You’ll lose credibility and come across as fake or evasive. Lack of authenticity is the surest way to not get hired.

Another common mistake is to respond too broadly. One of my former clients answered by saying that she needed to be more assertive. This cost her the job because the hiring manager thought she would never speak up. The fact of the matter was that she found it challenging to assert herself in large groups. This is quite different than responding globally, the way she did.

Finally, don’t cite a weakness that is a core skill needed for the job such as “my computer skills are not very strong.” If you don’t have the necessary skills before you get a job, what makes you think you’ll succeed if you get hired?

How to answer effectively

We’re all are stronger at some things than others. And, we all have something we need to improve. The question is, what have you done about it? Therein lies the key to answering the question.
If you are honest in revealing an area of weakness and go on to explain what you’ve done about it, you shift the discussion away from a weakness to the solution you conceived and implemented. Not only have you addressed the weakness but you’ve demonstrated your perseverance and problem solving abilities at the same time. What manager doesn’t want to hire a tenacious problem-solver?

Last but not least

Effective interviewing is a skill you develop over time; the more you practice, the better you get. Prepare you answer to this question and others that worry you in advance of the interview. Practice with people who will give you honest and supportive feedback.

For more information on strategies for effective interviewing and to learn more on how to make a successful job or career transition check out my career coaching services at: