Welcome to another blog in our series called, “Ask a Career Coach” where a member of our Career Coaching team will answer one of your most pressing job search and/or career related questions. Today’s question comes from David Z. in Chicago, IL.
David: I’ve been on two interviews recently and both asked me about weaknesses. I’ve never been sure how to respond to this question, but I know I’m not supposed to say anything that is going to be too “honest.” I know you’re supposed to turn your weakness into something that’s positive, but what kind of strategy do you recommend?
Kim Stevenson: That’s a great question David! You might be thinking, “I don’t want to tell them I have any weaknesses or I might not get the job.” However, it’s a bad idea to dodge the question or list a weakness that’s really a strength. When a hiring manager asks this kind of question, they are looking for a certain degree of honesty, self-awareness, and a desire for self-improvement.
Prepare ahead of time for this question by thinking about the job description and what you can say that is honest, but won’t be a red flag to the hiring manager. Maybe a past supervisor mentioned something you needed to work on that ended up being great advice, or maybe you have struggled with something in the past but you’ve been making strides to improve? Once you have a weakness in mind, think of how you can demonstrate that you are learning and growing in that area. Did you take a class, read a book, or receive help from someone? The idea is not to turn the weakness into a strength, but to turn it into a learning experience and an opportunity for personal growth. Here are a few examples and a couple of points to keep in mind as you think through how to answer this question:
• Make sure the weakness is not something that is relevant to the job you’re seeking. For example, if you’re applying for a job as an accountant, you would not want to say, “I’m not that great with numbers.” However, you could get away with using this weakness if you were interviewing for a job as a copyeditor or a graphic designer. Maybe you struggle with public speaking (so do many other people), and most accountants wouldn’t be doing much (if any) of that. You could say, “I’m confident speaking with clients and smaller groups, but I still get nervous speaking in front of large groups. I took a public speaking workshop last year that has helped me improve, but I know that is an area that I need to work on.”
• Avoid using weaknesses that are really strengths in disguise. For example, employers can see right through responses like, “Oh I tend to take on too much work” or, “I’m a bit of a workaholic and I stay late every night.” These are not the kinds of responses employers want to hear.
• Don’t discuss weaknesses that are not work related. For example, you would not want to say, “I’m not very good at planning my weekends when I have free time” or, “I really need to do a better job at exercising regularly.”
Talking about weakness is always a challenge, but the reality is—everyone has something that they struggle with. Aim to show that you are of good character by being honest and aware of the fact that you are not perfect.
Best of luck to you!
Guest Blogger: Kim Stevenson
Bio: Kim is a Career Coach with ePropelr. She has a Bachelor's degree in Business with an emphasis on Human Resource Management and a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Kim is Myers Briggs (MBTI®) Certified and enjoys helping people identify their strengths and determine their future career goals.
*If you’d like to submit a question to one of our Career Coaches, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish your question in a future blog.
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