Your interviewer asks, “What is your weakness?” You freeze – which is not such a bad thing. Especially if you were going to give an answer off the top of your head. Whatever that answer was, get rid of it! This question qualifies for more than a “top-of-the-head” answer. No worries, though. The answer has already been provided – it’s in the job description! Below are some important tips to remember whenever you are asked for your weakness.

1. Check the Job Description – The interviewer is not trying to find your “superman” weakness. It is simply a way to find out if you are a good fit for the company, and to get to know the real you. Employers expect to provide personal development to employees; however, they may not need someone who’s major weakness is email etiquette or word processing, especially if these are major requirements of the position. The job description will let you know the duties that are preferred, and the ones that are required. Required duties should not be on your list of weaknesses!

2. No Personal Confessions or “Pet Peeves “– This one is a no-no! I have conducted many interview preparation sessions over the years, and I found that some people will use the interview to be “brutally honest.”  This is not the time to tell the employer that you prefer to work alone, or that you don’t like to be interrupted! Give this question a positive answer without making it appear that if hired, you would be unproductive.

3. No Cookie Cutter Answers – I know. Your “Job Readiness Online” Course taught you to “turn your weakness into a strength.” One can be but so creative with this one. Answers like, “I am perfectionist,” and “I like things done ahead of time..” Employers have already caught on to those – they are getting a bit old now. This company may not be willing to allow you to spend extra hours at work just because you think a project isn’t good enough, when it really could have been submitted days ago. Another scenario is, your deadline was yesterday and you just got the assignment today. Should you still say, “I like things done ahead of time?  I don’t think so. To avoid answering yourself out of your opportunity, review tip #1 above and do the following: (a) Look at the job description thoroughly. (b) Find skills that you are not so good at, making sure that these are not the key skills for the position, choose the one that would hinder you the most if you were hired. (c) Then, tell the employer how you expect to enhance that particular skill. See the example below:

Karen is an Administrative Assistant with 5 years experience. She applies for an administrative assistant position with a legal firm (see typical job description below):

Assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, or researching legal precedent. Conduct research to support a legal proceeding, to formulate a defense, or to initiate legal action.

  • Prepare affidavits or other documents, such as legal correspondence, and organize and maintain documents in paper or electronic filing system.
  • Prepare for trial by performing tasks such as organizing exhibits.
  • Prepare legal documents, including briefs, pleadings, appeals, wills, contracts, and real estate closing statements.
  • Call upon witnesses to testify at hearing.
  • Meet with clients and other professionals to discuss details of case.
  • Investigate facts and law of cases and search pertinent sources, such as public records, to determine causes of action and to prepare cases.
  • Direct and coordinate law office activity, including delivery of subpoenas.
  • File pleadings with court clerk.
  • Gather and analyze research data, such as statutes, decisions, and legal articles, codes, and documents.
  • Keep and monitor legal volumes to ensure that law library is up-to-date.

When asked the question, “What is your weakness?” Karen replied, “I am not good at giving public speeches because I haven’t been called upon to do so. But, I have good communication skills. I have been practicing on my friends and family just in case I am asked to present something to one of your clients.”

Karen checked out the job description thoroughly. She stayed away from anything that had to do with keying, data entry, research, etc. She did not disclose a personal confession or pet peeve. She chose a weakness that wasn’t listed as a major requirement, but may be needed at some point in the position. Then, she explained how she plans to overcome the weakness – by practicing her communication skills on her friends and family.

For more job seeker tips like these, take a free Pathways to Employment Workshop, held at NCWorks Career Centers in Guilford County. See our “About” Page for contact information.

Written by: Joan Tucker, CWDP

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