Ever been asked this at an interview? It’s such a dreaded question and it should never really come as a surprise… which is why I’m always amazed when people have really bad answers! Lately, I’ve been doing tons of interview coaching (click here to check it out) and I thought I’d share some tips of what, and what not, to say.
TIP ONE: Don’t pick a strength-pretending-to-be-a-weakness that’s super obvious.
For example, “I’m a total perfectionist” or “I can be impatient”. Unless it’s phrased well, it’s kind of like you’re not even answering the question and it could annoy your interviewer. Most just won’t believe you. I mean, really, how many really should be calling themselves perfectionists? After working with hundreds, if not thousands of people over the years, I’d probably say I only know a handful! And for arguments’ sake, if we say you truly are a perfectionist, a better approach to phrasing your answer might be something like this: “I know there are times when you have to take an 80-20 approach, but I can find that challenging. I prefer to keep going on the detail until I’m confidant that 100% has been taken care of, but I understand that sometimes I have to let this go for the sake of time”.
TIP TWO: Don’t pick a weakness that is entirely relevant, or entirely irrelevant, to the job in question
Let’s imagine you’re an accountant looking to move firms and are interviewing for a new tax role that’s come up… There are probably a bunch of things that you wouldn’t want to say – that you’re bad with details, that you can find stress difficult, that you don’t like dealing with clients… Now you don’t want to pick something so obviously irrelevant that again, it’s a total cop out – like how you’re not a great driver, or how you aren’t good with people’s names. Instead, you might mention that you haven’t done much work in PowerPoint. This is probably safe as you’re unlikely to need to do much with it and yet it’s a fair thing to say since it’s a standard/popular tool that most people do and can use.
TIP THREE: Show that you’re doing something to address your weakness.
While the interviewer only asked what your weakness is, make sure you also tell them what you’re doing or even better, what you’ve already done about it. Sticking with the PowerPoint example, mention that while it’s not yet a strength, you recently helped put together a few slide decks for an upcoming pitch to a potential client and that this alone helped improve your abilities. This kind of remark also shows you’re eager to learn and you’re not afraid of tackling new skills.
Come on, let’s hear them! Let me know the best or worst answers you’ve either given or heard in the comments below.