How to answer the toughest interview question

I believe most people can come to a general consensus that looking for a new job is not something anyone likes to do, and is usually done out of necessity. But there may be better opportunities awaiting us at a different company. Interviewing is also not enjoyable for most people, and there are particular questions that people hope not to answer- but are prepared for it anyway. Of the standard interview questions, I’ve found the most dreaded of all is “What is your weakness?” At a time when someone is supposed to be selling themselves to a hiring manager with the hopes of joining the team, this question makes us the most vulnerable.

In answering this question, you should be aware that the secret is to take a negative and flip it into a positive. Of course, that’s easier said than done. In my experience as a recruiter, candidates often try to start from a positive place such as “I work too hard” or “I care about my clients too much” and in the process avoids answering the question completely. Interviewers take note, and it has cost a lot of candidates the job, even when they interviewed well otherwise.

Here are a few short tips for answering the question you may absolutely loath:

  • Be honest

We all have weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and things we are just not great at. Employers know that perfection can’t be expected of anyone they interview. While the question is meant to help them determine whether or not someone is a fit for the role, the truth of the matter is that part of the reason for asking the weaknesses question is that employers are trying to gauge how genuine a candidate can be. Just like with a resume, employers are aware that a job seekers objective is to highlight all of their strengths, while minimizing or eliminating their weaker areas. By putting you on the spot a little bit, it can help a hiring manager observe how authentic you are being with them.

  • Explain how your weakness is a weakness

As stated above, this is often the problem with this question. Answering the question with “I struggle with completing my work on time”, can cost them any job. Therefore, refrain from answering the question with anything too damaging. However, responding to the question with an answer such as “I help others on my team too much” without any detail can be just as bad because you are avoiding the question by answering it with something which is generally accepted in the workplace. Is it preventing you from getting your own work done? Do you have a problem saying no to co-workers? Do you often find yourself in conflict when you refuse to do something for your colleagues? You have to explain the negative consequences of your weakness to the interviewer so they can see that the question is being answered properly and truthfully.

  • Explain how you work around your weakness

Weaknesses are expected, but people are also required to be able to succeed in the workplace. If you are able to identify a weakness, employers also want to see that you are able to manage your weakness by balancing them out with strengths. Your weaknesses, despite the fact they exist, should still not be an impediment to your job. So you should explain during the interview how your weakness won’t get in the way, and you’re still the most qualified person for the position.

This interview question has no real right answer, and it never seems to get easier. However, keep in mind it’s meant to take you a little off track from the pace of the rest of the interview. The best thing you can do is go into an interview prepared for it to be asked.