Posted by on February 10, 2014

How to express your weakness as a not a weakness but a potential strength.

We’ve all been there at a job interview, we’ve explained why we want the job, expanded on parts of our CV and then the question we’ve been practising for, the one we knew half the answer to…

“Tell us, what are your strengths and weaknesses?”

It’s easy to reel off a list of strengths right?! – I’m punctual, a team player, diligent, confident… all the adjectives that make us sound reliable and employable…(we can address more original ways to answer this part of the question another time).  But, what about our weaknesses?  The person who we hope to be our next boss doesn’t want to hear all our bad habits, that we hit the snooze button four times before getting up in the morning or that we’re the last person to arrive in the office every day (even though we live the closest).

They certainly don’t want to hear that you’re ‘a perfectionist’ – What do you even mean by that? –they’re bound to ask so you need to have a follow up.

The answer to this part of the question needs to be positive so first of all, don’t refer to it as a weakness, even if they do.  Say, “An area I feel I can improve” or “An aspect of my work that I have been working to improve…” and so on.  Second, it needs to be relevant, for example if you’re going for a job in a call centre as a Customer Service Representative, sharing with the interviewer that you have a terrible sense of direction isn’t relevant to giving excellent customer service, (though it might make them wonder if you’ll get lost on the way to work) it isn’t relevant to the job and so telling them the steps you’re taking to overcome it wouldn’t be relevant to the job either.  Talk about areas for improvement in yourself that you recognise, that won’t prevent you from doing the job in the first instance but that once you’ve tackled will make you an ever more valuable member of the team.

Back to the call centre example, you might say, “Whilst I am comfortable talking with people one to one I am not a strong public speaker so giving presentations or talking in front of groups would be a challenge for me.  However, it is one I am keen to take on and I have begun research in to local public speaking clubs/courses to help me improve in this area”

Here you have re-enforced your ability to do the job at the same time as acknowledging a potentially relevant weakness.  Then you have followed up with a solution as to how you intend to overcome the weakness and improve yourself.

For the record, joining a public speaking club/course will help address all manner of confidence related weaknesses – I’m talking from experience.

Whilst I list a positive example for every weakness one might have… this is a good starting point.

  • Identify and acknowledge an area of your professional self which could be improved and once done would be of value to the employer.
  • Re-enforce the fact that it doesn’t present an immediate inability to perform the job.
  • Identify a way in which you can begin/have begun to overcome it.
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