What's Your Biggest Weakness?: Tricky Interview Questions

Advice

March 01, 2021

Among the most frequent questions employers ask interviewees is “what is your biggest weakness?” You may be wondering why an employer would want to know the things that you aren’t good at. Wouldn’t they want to hire the best candidate?

It’s a classic trick question. The hiring managers know that the best candidates acknowledge their weaknesses and what they need to improve on. Let’s explore this tricky interview question a bit more.

Why do employers ask this question?

When people are applying for a job, applicants tend to write about their accomplishments, experiences and skills. Your interviewer has most likely read your cover letter and CV when you applied for the job and wants to know some things, such as your weaknesses, which you have not yet revealed. 

Employers tend to ask what your weaknesses are because:

  • they want to find out what you are like as an individual. 

  • it shows you are self-aware and adaptable

  • only candidates aware of their weakness would work on them. 

Your answer may even set the tone for the rest of the interview.

How to respond?

First things first, when employers ask “what is your biggest weakness?” they are not looking to hear about weaknesses unrelated to the job. For example, if you were being interviewed for a job as a flight attendant, the employer will not want to hear that your weakness is that you are bad at chess.

Share professional activities, milestones or achievements

Focus on job skills surrounding your career goals. This question is a great opportunity to tell employers more about you and how you will be useful to them. You can share what you are studying, the extra-curricular activities you do like volunteering, the job you are currently doing. However, bear in mind to only mention the things that are relevant to the company and the position and something that will catch the employer’s attention. 

Show that you are willing to improve

In addition to acknowledging your weakness, tell the employer what you are doing or intend to do to overcome this weakness and improve. For example, if you were applying for a junior journalist job at a magazine and they asked you what your weakness is you could say that you need more practice on how to write in the style of a magazine. You could then say that you are doing work experience with a magazine and several editors are offering their professional advice to help you to improve and you are practising your writing skills by writing articles for the magazine. So show the employer how your work or studies and the extra-curricular activities help you improve your skills or will help you to overcome your weaknesses. 

What’s the caveat?

You cannot talk about everything about yourself in the space of approximately two minutes. If the employer asks “what is your biggest weakness?” you can presume that they are just looking to hear about one weakness but it wouldn’t harm to talk about two weaknesses if you wish. 

It’s imperative to share your progress on improvements. Mentioning how you overcame one weakness can prove to employers that you have the willingness, determination and resilience to overcome your other weaknesses. This is very important to employers because things at work will not always go smoothly and so they need employees that they can rely on to use their own initiative and are motivated to improve themselves and willing to take responsibility.

 

Written by Yasmin Al-najar

 

Yasmin studied English and politics (BA) and then completed a Master’s in Human Rights and Political Science. She loves reading, writing, the arts, history and enjoys exploring new places and going to the theatre. Yasmin is currently working as a freelance journalist. She covers a variety of topics including human rights, social issues and justice, social media, law and politics.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
 

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