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How to respond to "What is your biggest weakness?"

interviewing well, interviewing effectively,
Responding to the classic interview question, "What is your biggest weakness?," is tricky. Everyone has weaknesses, but sharing your worst attribute can ruin your hiring prospects.

The trickiness of the question is why I advise job seekers not to share their actual worst job-related weakness, but rather to pick a weakness that they are already fixing that is NOT a core duty. 

So instead of dwelling on the weakness, I encourage you to ... 

1) emphasize steps that you are taking to overcome the weakness.
2) discuss progress that you have made toward proficiency.  

With that thinking in mind, a strong response to the weakness question might be ... 

"Math [a non-core duty] is challenging for me so I thoroughly document how to handle math-related functions and reference the documentation often. I've also taken math and Excel classes recently to improve my proficiencies (and have made great progress!) I double check my work and, when appropriate, ask someone else to review my calculations. By taking all of these steps, I successfully handle math duties well." 

What makes for a “good” weakness?
It depends on the types of jobs you seek, but in general, your weakness should involve a skill that you will rarely use in the position. For example, mention not having worked with a legacy system that you know the company is phasing out. Then share that while you haven’t used that particular system, you have researched the program and learned as much as possible on your own including [share brief system knowledge]. Then state your proficiencies with similar systems and express how quickly you learn new technology. 

Pro Tip: Have an influential person contact the company to vouch for your abilities.

In a similar way, you could explain that you have not had the opportunity to handle social media on the job so you strengthened such abilities on your own. For example, you could say that you have a well-established LinkedIn account (with ### number of connections), have created accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and regularly post business-related articles on behalf of a local nonprofit. Share your number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc., if the number is impressive.

Pro Tip: Don't balk at creating social media accounts that could be useful for your career! They are easy to set up and to learn how to use, so start today: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest 

Don’t try to BS ‘em
Interviewers will not believe you if you say that you have no weaknesses so come up with something! They will also not believe you if use a suspicious “my weakness is a plus” response like, “My biggest weakness is that I am a workaholic.” Yeah right.

Pro Tip: Promote your strengths in your LinkedIn summary section. Recruiters WILL check out your profile if they are interested, so be ready!

Of course stating a minor weakness in the interview is no excuse for remaining weak in a core duty. Your new boss will quickly realize such shortcomings, so take active steps now to overcome weaknesses that may be keeping you from getting … or keeping a job.

Related articles 

The bottom line: Respond well to the weakness question! 

How do you respond to the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question? Share your thoughts and questions! Thanks, Kathy


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