The classic “Tell me about your weaknesses” or “Name three weaknesses of yours”
“If I ask your manager/colleagues to mention three weak points of yours, what you think they will say” or “What flaws you have which can hinder success path of yours”
There is enough debate going on in the HR world about the relevance of this question in today’s workplace and whether this question is a right way to judge self-awareness capabilities of any candidate.
With changing times this question seems to be losing its importance. Still, if the interviewer asks you, you have no option but to answer it.
Let’s find out what is the right way to answer this question so that your interview remain on a right track.
First of all, what is the motive behind asking this question?
Do interviewer really expect someone to answer this question with complete honesty?
And do they think someone is going to let this opportunity go from their hand by speaking at length about their weaknesses?
See in Interview we talk about ourselves, our achievements, success stories, key skills, strengths. That is all positive talk. Talking positively about yourself is comparatively easy than disclosing negative points about yourself. Confessing your weaknesses that too in front of that person whom you want to impress to grab this opportunity is the most uncomfortable thing to do.
And that is exactly why this is one of the most commonly asked interview question. The motive is to throw you off the track, in an uncomfortable position and then see the real “YOU”.
So more than the content of answer, interviewer mostly judge your way of answering this question.
Avoiding this question or simply stating “I do not have weaknesses” is a sure shot way to get rejected. As a candidate, you have to give a very balanced answer. An answer which subtly tells about your weaknesses without diluting your selection chances.
Now next question is how to frame such answer:
- Talk about weaknesses which are not directly related to the job you are applying for, however, require for growing in a professional setup.
Read the job description carefully and refrain from mentioning any skill, which is a core requirement for the job.
Sample answers: 1. If you are applying for a finance job, where role requires you to work independently and zero customer interaction would be needed. Your answer can be:
My people skills are bit weak, however, I am working hard to improve it. I have joined online sessions to improve the same and have seen tremendous improvement in last one year. Hoping to hone this skill by this year-end.
2. If the job requires you to work as an individual contributor then the safe way to answer this question can be:
In my last job, 1-2 interns were working under me. I mentored them, trained them. But when it came to assigning small tasks to them, I couldn’t do it perfectly. And I realized that I am weak when it comes to delegation. I wanted to finish everything by myself as I was having a difficult time to trust on their work and on their ability to complete the task. And this is not a desirable quality if you want to become a leader.
After this, I have joined some training session on “how to become good at delegation” and read few books and many articles on this subject.
I am not saying that I have completely overcome this weakness of mine. But whenever I will get a second chance I hope I will emerge as a better leader.
2. Plan of action:
To change the tone of the answer, after mentioning weaknesses, add how you are working towards improvement.
In above examples, clear improvement plans have been mentioned.
This part is important while answering this question as it indicates that you are not someone, who is sitting idle but you are aware of your weaknesses and are working towards improving them.
3. Avoid these kinds of weaknesses:
Do not share weaknesses in those skills which are essential to perform any job. Such as Time Management, Teamwork, Prioritizing task, Communication skills.
And also do not share weaknesses in such a way that it sounds like there are bleak chances of improvement.
Such as: If you are stating “fear of public speaking” as your weakness, then there are 2 ways to describe it:
- I find it difficult to address a group of people, earlier I was not able to speak at all, but recently with some training sessions on public speaking, I have seen some improvements. Now I can deliver a speech but not a smooth one. Still, I am working towards it and hope to get better with few more training sessions. (It signals that you are not good at public speaking but there is room for improvement and you are trying to get better)
- I just can not speak in front of people. Making eye contact with people and speaking at the same time is something I just can not do. My heart starts beating fast, I feel butterflies in my stomach with excessive sweating. (You do not need to share too many details about your weakness that it starts to look like no improvement can be done in this area)
Of course first one is a better way to answer this question.
Now let’s check out other answer ideas are:
Too liberal with others: I often find myself too liberal with others. Lately, I started feeling that people take advantage of this. At the workplace, you have to be strict sometimes, especially if you want others also to take responsibility for team task. So now I try to be a little cautious while dealing with other people.
Too Direct: I am a very straightforward person. Most of the times I am too direct with people, I would criticize them or appreciate them on their face. But lately, I learned that there are times when you should choose diplomacy to convey what you want to say. So currently I am focusing on being someone who can say things in a different and more polished manner.
Too Organised: I am a highly organized person. Be at work and be at home. And this is my strength most of the times. But it becomes my weakness when I try to organize everything at same time, this builds up a lot of stress. Sometimes in order to do that, I expect a lot from others too and become too aggressive with them. So I feel there are times when I should choose to let things go and relax a bit. Recently I started doing meditation and started reading some books on how to keep calm and let things go.
So this is how you should try to answer this scary question. In brief, while sharing any weakness you need to remember two things:
- Your weakness should not be something which affects your productivity at work.
- Your weakness is temporary and you are working towards improvement.
Check out other interview question and how to answer them here: