If you are familiar with the interview process, you’ve encountered a number of reappearing questions. We’re going to discuss a question you’re almost guaranteed to encounter at some point. And yet, for as ubiquitous as it is, it can continue to frustrate and stump people as they seek to prepare for it:
“What is your greatest weakness?”
In this blog, we’ll look at the purpose behind this question, what employers are looking for when they ask it, and how to craft an answer.
Why do employers ask this question?
First, it is important to understand what employers are looking for when they ask this question. One way to do that is to first understand what they’re not looking for. An interviewer is not looking for an answer about weakness that is unrelated to your work; this may seem intuitive, but it is important to establish. So, as important as these answers are in other spheres of your life, it’s not relevant to them as your potential employer. Answers related to your hobbies, or challenges in your personal life, are not what the question is meant to discover.
So: what is it interviewers are wanting to know? There may be different things driving interviewers to ask this question, but what they are looking for can basically be boiled down to these elements:
Do you possess self-awareness about areas in which you need to grow in your work life?
Are you looking for opportunities to grow in the areas you’ve identified?
What kind of answer should I give?
First, before trying to formulate an answer, spend some time thinking about your own work history. You might think about questions such as:
What have your previous work experiences been like?
What kind of feedback have you received from prior supervisors?
What difficulties have you encountered in your prior roles, whether working with others or independently?
Contemplating these questions will help move you towards a sense of what your areas of growth might be. Perhaps after thinking this through, you realized that you have difficulty with delegating tasks. Maybe you identified a pattern of nervousness around public speaking. Or, it might be another area entirely. Whatever it might be, this step is invaluable, because it offers you the opportunity to examine yourself openly and honestly, and to see what you find. This exercise in self-awareness will help you identify potential growth areas, and effectively get at the intent behind the interviewer’s question.
Identifying Growth and Opportunity Areas
Once you’ve thought through your work history a bit more, think about the areas that you pinpointed. Is there one or two that offer an opportunity for growth? If so, what might be concrete steps that you could take to grow in these areas, and have you sought out these opportunities? For example, if you feel like collaborative work is difficult for you, have you sought out collaborative opportunities in your current position, such as team projects or initiatives?
After you’ve identified growth areas and opportunities for you to grow, workshop your interview answer. Write it out. Re-read, edit it and practice it out loud if you have an upcoming interview. Speaking it a few times will allow you to internalize the key parts of your answer that you want to remember, as well as the rhythm and cadence of how you want to speak.
Preparing in these ways will help you to deliver a thoughtful answer to this question in a relaxed manner.
Looking for more information?
Set up a virtual meeting with one of our certified Career Coaches through the Book a Learning Coach form or by calling 803-929-3400. After you submit, we will contact you to set an appointment. Our team provides help with interviewing skills, your résumé, interest/skills assessments, and more. Follow Richland Library on LinkedIn and subscribe to our YouTube channel for career development tips and tidbits.