The weakness question is one of the most dreaded questions in the interview and many people look for advice on how to answer this question, however many people still struggle to identify an area that they can call a weakness and also mention in the interview without putting the employer off.
Firstly it can be good to think about areas in your previous roles that you kept putting off or felt were difficult, or others did better or areas that you needed advice on or help with. Is there anything you would like to be able to do better, or get training, knowledge or experience in or are there any hard skills you would like to improve? Are there any soft skills or traits that would like to develop? i.e. Assertiveness, competitiveness, negotiation, decision making, delegation, innovation, presentation, providing feedback, networking, sales or leadership.
I have come across many examples of these answers in the past and would like to share some of the ones that have stood out for me. I hope that these will help to spark an idea of what you could mention in your interview.
In your last review did your supervisor make any suggestions?
It can be good to think of any areas previous employers or trainers might have mentioned as areas for development or improvement e.g,
“I am a very supportive and encouraging person and I work really well in a team, however I find that I don’t jump into the role of leader naturally. If this role is appointed or no one else is willing to take the lead I can assume this role, however this is something that is out of my comfort zone. I know that I have a lot to offer and in previous projects I have led they have been successful so this is something that I will try to work on in the future if leaders are needed.”
Did you need any get advice, help with or training in your previous role?
Were there any areas in previous roles that you needed to ask for help from your colleagues? e.g.,
“When I start a project I become very focused on it, I find it difficult when other projects come up in the middle of it that I have to attend to. I am trying to get better at multi tasking, prioritising and delegating when required.”
What are the things that you keep putting off in work?
What are things that you say I will do tomorrow but never seem to get done e.g.
“I am a people person and I really enjoy the energy of working with other people. My door is always open to colleagues and clients; however this can mean that my paperwork can be pushed to one side for longer than necessary. I am aware of this pattern now and I keep aside one Friday every two weeks to block off my schedule and complete any pending paper work.”
“I am a very good team worker and work hard. Sometimes if I don’t know how to do something I find it hard to ask for help as I hate to feel like I am bothering my colleagues so I can spend a lot longer figuring out a task than I would need to. I am trying to get used to asking people for help, as I always enjoy helping my colleagues and I realise that as long as it is not too often they feel the same way too.”
What part of your job did you least like, didn’t enjoy or found difficult?
Were there any areas of your previous role that you just didn’t like doing or found uncomfortable?. e.g.,
“I am a very positive, encouraging and supportive person. I find it difficult when I am in a situation when I have to provide people with negative feedback, it is something that does not come naturally to me and I feel very uncomfortable around it. I am working on ways to give feedback in the most positive way and also becoming more aware that sometimes the only way people can learn is through constructive criticism.”
“I know that when I do something I have control over the end result and I know that I will give it 100%. For this reason I find it hard to delegate or ask for help. However I am learning that in order for other people to develop and grow in confidence and to save me time this is something that I need to do more of.”
“I am a calm and easy going person. I can find it difficult if I am leading a team and I have to push people to get things done. I am learning that it is really important to keep track on work schedules and if you remind people in a very polite way that they don’t mind, however it isn’t something that I am too comfortable with yet.”
Was there anything that others did better?
Who in the workplace do you most look up to and why, what do they do that you would like to do better? e.g.,
“I always finish my work before the deadlines. However I can tend to put off doing things until they need to be done, until just before the deadline. I always get my work completed though I usually end up under a lot of pressure before a deadline. I have learned to write a list of things that I need to do and complete a part of a task everyday instead of leaving things until the last minute.”
“I can be very persistent and determined so if there is a problem or something I can’t figure out, I tend to stay focused on it until I overcome it. This can take a lot of my time away from other tasks. I am trying to get better at asking my co-workers for advice or help with something if I am stuck on it for a while as I know in the long run that this will be more efficient and beneficial”
“I am a very logical and rational person who likes to follow the rules and regulations and ensure that everything is done in the right way. For this reason sometimes I can find it difficult to think outside the box or to be spontaneous. I know that in most situations there is more than one way to do something and I am trying to loosen up and be more innovative.”
Was there anything that used to be a problem for you in the past, but in which you have gained confidence now?
What have you already worked on or improved?
“I am a person who likes to be very prepared, any time I am making a presentation I like to have everything ready a good long time in advance. For this reason sometimes I can find it difficult to improvise, or if I have short notice to carry out a presentation or task, this is something that I am not very comfortable with. I think that this is something that I can improve with practice and the more it happens the more comfortable I will feel in dealing with it.”
“I really enjoy working with people one on one, however if I have to stand in front of a group of people and make a presentation that is something that I find quite difficult and I can end up quite anxious. I joined a toastmasters group recently and I feel that I am gaining more confidence in providing presentations though I still need some more practice.”
As with every other answer in the interview it is important not to mention something that will totally turn the employer off or show them that you might not be capable of carrying out this role. Always try and focus on the positive of how you are improving this trait.
Warning – When you are sharing a weakness make sure to have an example ready for when this actually happened and an example of how you are improving this weakness.
Remember that everyone has weaknesses but how we deal with them really shows how strong we are. Good luck!
If you want to learn more about this topic ….
Breda Hegarty is the Pre-employment Trainer in Business in the Community Ireland, supporting people with barriers gain employment and author of the blog www.thejobmotivator.com . For more information and to book an appointment for a place on our next free training course in relation to C.V.s . cover letters and Interview skills call (01) 874380 / (01) 8743814 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.bitc.ie/employment-programmes/