Sophie Randles, Head of Practice sheds some light on how to respond to this tricky interview question and come out on top!
At Rutherford Cross we are seeing the dreaded ‘weakness’ question being asked at interview more and more, especially when a key factor in the decision-making process for many hiring managers is the assessment of the ‘culture fit’ of the person they are interviewing.
Believe it or not, this question which might seem on the surface to be irrelevant serves a very important function. The hiring manager is looking to assess your reaction when faced with a tricky situation or in this case, tricky question. You need to turn these seemingly insignificant questions into another opportunity to position yourself as the right and only person for the job.
Whilst these questions appear to be asking you to reveal your shortcomings, it in fact provides you with a golden opportunity to showcase your skills. The trick to answering these questions is simple…preparation! At the risk of sounding too clichéd, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
How to answer:
Start out by answering the question before you even get to the interview. Be critical and reflective of yourself, you need to honestly figure out what your weaknesses are. Be realistic, everyone has weakness! It’s important here that you don’t respond generically or worse with flat out denial. I once had a candidate respond to me and firm – “weaknesses, I have none, you would be lucky to have me” – safe to say he learnt his lesson the hard way!
The perfect candidate can take their weakness and turn it into a strength. Review your appraisals and think through specific instances where you feel you could have handled the situation better. For example – do you have a hard time taking criticism without getting defensive or do you get frustrated when you are not in full control of a project etc.
Look at the job you are applying for, and tailor your response to what you think the hiring manager is looking for. For example, if the job interviewing for requires strong people management skills due to a large and tricky team the “weakness” response should be around your ability and previous experience in overcoming your frustration with conflict or improvement around trusting your team to deliver without micro-management.
- Highlighting improvement area
- Explaining solution to fix improvement area
- Discuss positive results due to changes mad
Expect the follow up
Once the question is answered, the follow up question will then come – “If you were hired, how would you ensure this weakness won’t be an issue for us”. If you have answered the ‘weakness’ question correctly the follow up question should further alleviate the hiring manager’s concerns. You want to convince the hiring manager that you have overcome the problem.
Remember, be prepared! A hiring manager will be more impressed with a candidate who has self-awareness and who is actively taking the initiative needed to improve themselves.
An earlier version of this article originally appeared on www.icas.com.