Let’s be real. We all dread this question. Discussing your weaknesses is never easy, but a word to the wise, this question is your chance to own it.
Responding with an inauthentic answer, like “I work too hard,” or “I care too much,” is an immediate red flag to an employer. Why? Because it shows no self-awareness or ownership (i.e. what this question is actually testing for).
Don’t think that answering with a real, current limitation is going to hurt you. The only thing that will hurt you is how you define your success in terms of that weakness. Here are some tips on how to turn a question of your weaknesses into opportunities for growth.
Be honest with yourself.
If you’ve never been asked to tell someone your biggest weakness during an interview, then I want you to go buy a lottery ticket right now because you are damn lucky.
You should always pick a real weakness. If you’re having trouble, write down some instances where your work performance wasn’t where you wanted it to be because you got in your own way. Maybe when you get stressed, you bunker down and stop communicating with your peers. Maybe you overthink things, making it difficult to make decisions. Be honest with yourself and identify your areas for growth.
This question isn’t designed to find a reason not to hire you, it’s to see if you can take accountability for you. Being aware of your less-than-optimal tendencies is actually appealing to companies. People hire people, and people know people aren’t perfect. When you can own your mistakes is when you can be a real team player.
Choose your words wisely.
Responding with an answer like “I always eat all of the communal snacks” is something more people than you’d think can relate to, but it’s not a substantial enough answer. When you have this opportunity, show maturity. Answering with something honest: relatable and manageable is your goal. Going back to our previous example of “I work too hard,” it would be better to rephrase this if this is actually true for you.
A better way to say this would be, “I have trouble setting limits for myself, so I often overwork myself on a project, which can lead to overthinking and questioning my ideas.” Honest and understandable.
Pick up the pieces.
Now that you’ve laid it out on the table, you have to end on a positive note. You can’t let your interviewers think that you don’t have a solution. Let’s be real—you’ve had plenty of time to think of one. Besides, they want someone quick on his or her feet. This is your opportunity to let them know, Hey, I’m still a badass because I know how to work what I’ve got.
End by letting them see how you deal with your weakness. For our previous example, it would be commendable to say, “I compensate for this by giving myself hard daily deadlines by which I can mark the amount of time I’ve spent on something. Unless it’s imperative, I’ll stop working on it so that I can approach it with fresh eyes the next day.” This shows that you acknowledge your tendency but that you know you bring so much more to the table.
Remember not to answer in a defeated manner. You’re in an interview. You’re already ahead of the game.
Sarah Croft is Koru's Director of Instructional Design. She studied Japanese and Astronomy at Williams College and got her masters in education innovation from Harvard. She loves developing awesome, useful, and fun educational programs and experiences.