What is your biggest weakness?
The interview question everyone hates. It sparks worry and angst. Nobody wants to cost him or herself a job by divulging a weakness that’ll put them out of the running. Understandable.
I get questions on how to answer this regularly. Folks come to me looking for the best cookie cutter response. What weakness can they spin into a positive to catapult them into the next round of interviews? How do they dodge the bullet? My answer is always the same. First, cookie cutter answers aren’t a step a above. They’re among the rest. Secondly:
It’s not about the weakness. It’s about what you’ve learned and what steps you’ve taken to address it. It’s about self-awareness, because hey…
Self-awareness is sexy.
That’s the case whether you’re looking for a job or a long-term relationship. Everybody wants someone that has made mistakes and can articulate what they’ve learned from them. Coming off as perfect or flawless can make you appear fake, or like someone that doesn’t know how to admit fault or recognize failure. That’s not sexy.
So when thinking about your weaknesses, think about a real one that has affected you professionally. Think about the last time you screwed something up, or a nagging issue you’ve had. Think about what a manager or colleague has had to speak to you about. Reflect on the times you’ve been most stressed (or even embarrassed). What was at the root of it? Was there something you could’ve done better? That’s where you will find your weakness. Now think about what steps you have taken to address that weakness.
Now you have a genuine answer to a “horrific” question, essentially turning a mountain lion into a kitten. Possibly even a story to tell when asked about failure, which is equally important. Because honestly, sometimes your failures are more important than your successes. They, along with weaknesses, are what build your character. They are what made you the person you are today. Don’t be ashamed of them. Don’t lie about them.
Embrace them. Learn from them. And if nothing else, be honest.