In most conventional interviews, you can expect to be asked to identify your greatest strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes, you’ll be explicitly asked the ‘what is your greatest weakness question’ but it can also be disguised as any of the following:
- ‘What did you find most challenging in your last role?’
• ‘How would you like to develop your skillset?’
• ‘What areas could you improve upon?’
• ‘If could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?’
No matter how it’s phrased, you’ll still need to answer it in the same way. It’s crucial that you avoid being vague or deferring the question, as it’s possible to turn it into an opportunity to show how you handle challenges and manage your priorities.
Constructing your answer isn’t easy, so how can you start to prepare for when you’re asked the typical ‘greatest weaknesses’ question?
Quite frankly, the interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you’re a perfectionist or hard-worker – or at least, not in your answer to this question. The reason you’re sitting in front of them is because they’ve seen your CV or LinkedIn profile and they want to know more about you as person. They’re asking the question because they want to find out what you wouldn’t be shouting about in your job application
A strategic approach
To impress the hiring manager, you’ll need to strike a balance between being open and honest – which helps to build trust and rapport – while also tactically turning the table in your favour. You’re looking to show self-awareness by giving an answer with depth rather than deflecting the question.
You could take several approaches with this, but try to avoid talking about a skill which simply isn’t relevant to the job. Yes, you could argue that you’re not showing any signs of weakness within that particular role, but any experienced hiring manager will see straight through your guise.
Alternatively, try referring to a time you improved your skills in an area that previously would’ve been your weakest. Perhaps you took a short course or asked your colleagues for help. It’s always easiest to talk about improving hard skills, such as your ability to use a piece of equipment or software. Soft skills are the characteristics we’ve developed over time – like communication and patience – and it’s much harder to prove that you’ve strengthened them.
Prepare your answer
There’s no need to write yourself a script, as you’ll only become flustered when you inevitably divert from it. However, it does pay to write yourself a few bullet points if it helps you to memorise the key points you want to translate. You’ll also feel better prepared when you walk into the interview – especially if you’ve done the same for several of the most commonly asked interview questions.Everyone has weaknesses – it’s what makes us human, and what makes us different from automated systems which are beginning to replace us. But by recognising how you’ve endeavoured to upskill yourself, you’re sure to impress when you face the all-important greatest weaknesses question.
About the author
Lucy Evans is an Executive Recruitment Consultant specialising within the Wealth Management industry. She works for Heat Recruitment, a specialist recruitment agency based in Bristol operating across the UK that specialise in Engineering, Information Technology, Insurance, Financial Services and the Legal sector. They place candidates in both permanent and contract roles.