From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

December 2021
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Interviewing Question: Weaknesses
Filed under: Interviewing
Posted by: site admin @ 8:26 am

 As we all know, interviewing is a performance skill that takes
preparation, planning, feedback, and practice.  It is also common
knowledge that most of the questions one is posed in interviews
can be anticipated.  (The blogroll has a nice listing of common
interview quesitons.)  Knowing that many of the questions can be
anticipated suggests that preparation for interviews should not only
include thoroughly knowing your resume, but also
   anticipating questions you are likely to be asked,
   developing 1 - 2 minute responses to the questions, and 
   practicing responses in several types of settings.

Many of the questions posed in interviews have questions behind
the questions.  This is, in fact, the basis for behavioral-based questions
which try to predict important behaviors of a candidate by asking
questions relating to specific behaviors one has shown in the past.

Similarly, the “weakness question” is one by which a company wishes
to rule out candidates who might have shortcomings that bring liabilities
in their anticipated role.

As in most interview responses, there is no single best response.  My
suggestion to interviewees is to be honest, don’t exaggerate, and reveal
what they believe is a weakness (understanding that if the weakness is
something the employer wants to be a strength, you are likely to be “voted
off the island”).  Follow the weakness with what you are doing about
correcting the weakness. 

Two common themes I personally use are time management and
working in teams.  I personally am challenged each day with too
many things to do and not enough time so I lay out a plan in
advance what I wish to accomplish and revisit the plan
at frequent intervals to ensure that I am meeting my important and
urgent goals. 

There are many areas that I recognize others as being effective. 
I like to work with others who have strengths that I can
learn from as a team, where I can provide my unique skills.

Please let me know how you approach the weakness question
in interviews.


Some of the comments that follow will list other perspective on
responding to this question.


3 Responses to “Interviewing Question: Weaknesses”

  1. site admin Says:

    Arlene Hirsch has authored an article, “How to
    Answer Questions About Your Weaknesses”

    She offers seven strategies with the reminder:

     frame an effective response.
     context is as important as content.
     cite a weakness, be sure to remind employers
    of your strengths.
     never suggest your inability to do the job.

    In a summary fashion, the strategies involve:
    - Cite a weakness that, under the right circumstances, can prove to be an asset
    - Mention a weakness that is a learning objective
    - Corrected weakness
    - Cite an unrelated skill deficit.

    Other approaches and their ‘watch-outs’ are given
    in a thoughtful way.
  2. site admin Says:

    Hans Chen wrote an article revealing more the downsides
    of various ‘weakness question’ responses.

     a fault that’s not really a fault. “I am impatient…,”
     ”students should consider a skill, mention the down
    side of this skill, describe how they keep that weakness
    in line, and then give an example.”
     ”ask the interviewer to rephrase the question, in hopes
    of drawing out the real concerns about your
    qualifications and temperament.” 
     ”try mentioning real weaknesses, but only those that
    have nothing to do with the job they’re applying for.”
     ”Pick something you’ve decided you need to get
    better at, like, ‘I need to know more languages.
    Again, try to name only weaknesses that have little
    to do with your prospective job.

    ” But other HR folks had differing opinions. The
    only thing it could possibly measure in a positive
    light is the candidate”s diplomacy quotient,”… 

  3. site admin Says:

    What Are Your Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses?
    by Carole Martin Monster Contributing Writer

    Ms. Martin offers a 3-step approach to response:
    1. assess your strengths
    2. assess your weaknesses
    3. practice your response, emphasizing your strengths.

    The breakdown she offers is helpful.
    “Make a list of your skills, dividing them into three categories:
    1. Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and
    2. Transferable skills: Your portable skills that you take
    from job to job.
    3. Personal traits: Your unique qualities (e.g., dependable,
    flexible, friendly, hard working, expressive, formal,
    punctual and being a team player).
    When you complete this list, choose three to five of
    those strengths that match what the employer is
    seeking in the job posting. Make sure you can give
    specific examples to demonstrate why you say that
    is your strength if probed further.” ..

    “Your Weaknesses: Everyone has weaknesses, but who
    wants to admit to them, especially in an interview? The
    best way to handle this question is to minimize the trait
    and emphasize the positive. Select a trait and come up
    with a solution to overcome your weakness.

    Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more
    on professional traits.” …

    “Your Answers: Write a positive statement you can
    say with confidence…”

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