In this post, I’ll address the classic interview question: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” How are you supposed to answer the second part of this question honestly without making yourself look bad?
First, let’s talk about what you should not do.
Do not say that you have no weaknesses! Even if the name on your resume is Clark Kent, you still have a weakness.
Do not say that your weakness is that you work too hard, or that you are too organized, too dedicated, or too passionate. The recruiter will see right through your B.S.
So, what do you say? There are two ways that recruiters have told me they like to hear this question answered.
1) Be honest.
We’re all only human. The recruiter wants to see you demonstrate the maturity to engage in some self-analysis and render yourself a little vulnerable. This does not mean you should talk about your weakness for a guy who can play the guitar, or a weak ankle from when you played little league and tripped sliding into 3rd base. Keep your examples appropriate and relevant to the job.
The idea behind having you identify a weakness is so that you can identify areas for personal and professional improvement. If your weakness is that you are too stubborn to take feedback, you better say how you recognize that you have a problem and you are working to fix it somehow. Don’t give a weakness that you can’t or won’t fix.
2) Use the STAR method.
When in doubt, always return to the STAR method and apply its formula to answer the question. Remember that STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.
In the case of identifying a weakness, start by explaining the situation – a good tip is to say, “I used to struggle with X.” Then, move on to the task: “I noticed that, due to my weakness in X, I was encountering problems with Y.” Next, talk about what you did about your problem: “I recognized that if I could learn how to Z, then I would reduce my problems with Y and my X behavior would decrease.” Lastly, explain the results of your action: “Now, because I have started doing Z, I have improved in Y and I no longer X. In fact, I recently received feedback from employers and peers commenting on my improvement.”
That’s the secret revealed. Pretty simple! Remember, think of more than one weakness to explain – don’t be surprised if the recruiter says, “Okay, good. Now, give me another weakness.” I have had recruiters ask me for up to five weaknesses, and it’s pretty stressful and dangerous for you to think things up on the spot. The key to impressing the interviewer and getting the job is being prepared.