Being asked about your weaknesses in a job interview isn't easy and can often feel like the employer is trying to catch you out. But actually, the dreaded 'What are your weaknesses?' question should be used as an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, by giving examples of times you've used your imperfections to your advantage.
Here, we give examples of five things you could say when asked about your weaknesses, if one of your own doesn't immediately spring to mind beforehand. Have a think about recent feedback you've had, or targets and goals you've been working towards that might work, providing you can give examples of how you're developing.
As we suggest the main thing to remember with this question is that everyone has weaknesses, no matter what their level or experience, so don’t panic!
'I’m too critical of myself'
While praising your colleagues and giving credit where credit's due might be one of your strong points, often we find it hard to recognise our own achievements in the workplace.
But this can be turned into a positive as you could talk about how you foster a supportive environment in your workplace by giving praise to colleagues regularly, which has in turn helped you to view your own work in a more positive light.
Sharing work you’re proud of on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter is a quick and easy way to do this, as well as making your company look good, which your prospective employer would also appreciate when you get hired by them.
'I default to solving problems by myself'
Rising to a challenge is important, but so is knowing when you can't do something alone, and need help, guidance or advice. An employer is always going to want a candidate who isn’t afraid to get stuck into their work and be proactive about rising to new challenges.
However, showing your ability to work in teams is also important so that you can demonstrate that you’ll have no problems getting on with your new colleagues.
You could give examples of when you’ve successfully delegated work to colleagues, which has made getting the task done far more efficient, or when you’ve asked for team members’ opinions that have unlocked some new and refreshing ways of thinking.
'I can be cautious about taking risks'
Some industries value risk more than others, but often being cautious is a 'weakness' that you can use to your advantage. Being cautious about risk-taking gives you a chance to show that you’re willing to consult others before making a decision, even if this takes slightly longer than making a snap-fast judgement.
See if you can throw in a good example of when a risk has paid off, despite feeling nervous about it. It's also worth explaining how you evaluate a situation and weigh up the pros and cons, and what you know about 'intelligent risk-taking'.
'I get nervous speaking in front of large groups'
Speaking in front of an audience is widely regarded as a nerve-wracking experience, so it's an obvious answer to the question. That said, make sure you give examples of times you've conquered the weakness, and be clear that you're willing to do so again.
Practice makes perfect, so let your interviewer know of any times you’ve challenged yourself by speaking in front of a large group, whether presenting at a conference or simply presenting something back to your colleagues. -
'I often get too impatient when things move slowly'
If this is an example you come up with answering that you sometimes get impatient by lack of progress could imply that you get bored when work is slow, but it’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a timely and efficient worker, when phrased correctly.
You could highlight how you’ve helped to support team members who have needed help in order to speed things along, or how you have taken steps to improve the clarity of your guidance to clients so that processes and projects have been sped up. Again, spinning what can generally be viewed as negative into something you recognise as an area of development and describing a strategy you are working on to mediate this shows a level of self-awareness and proactivity of self-development.