Interview Question: What are Your Weaknesses?
By the Frog CareerAgent Team
Following on from a previous post regarding the interview question why should I hire you, this post explores another common but tricky interview question: What are your weaknesses?
Again, instead of guessing what recruiters are looking for (which is what a lot of other articles on the topic seem to do); I gathered my facts by interviewing experienced and professional recruiters.
It is worth to note from the start that recruiters are people too – they know this is a difficult question. Recruiters are typically individuals who do well in their role because they have high levels of empathy. In saying this, you can be rest assured that good recruiters won’t try to catch you out or trip you up. Accordingly, they are more likely to frame the question in a positive way. One way this is done is by using weaknesses as a direct follow-up question from strengths. In other words, after listing your strengths, you’re given the opportunity to balance them out with some areas you may need improving on. This strategy means that by the time you reach this question, your brain is already warmed up by discussing your strengths first.
Another way the question may be framed is “What are your areas for development?” This will give the candidate an opportunity to reflect on how the role may aid in their development. For example: “I don’t have a lot of cold calling experience, but I anticipate that this role will give me the opportunity to develop that skill, as it’s important for my personal growth as a sales person”. This kind of response achieves two goals: first, it answers the question honestly; second, it tells the recruiter what the candidate wants out of the role.
It is pertinent to bring up a key point, and that is answering honestly. Recruiters should be aware that success in a role is determined mainly by strengths, and less so by weaknesses, thus an honest answer should be fairly easy to balance with a positive. Answering honestly shows the recruiter that you have enough self-awareness to critically appraise your own performance. Especially for senior level roles, one recruiter said that a good way to mitigate weaknesses is by giving examples of how you’ve teamed up with other people to overcome barriers.
No doubt – some weaknesses will be deal breakers. Typically time management, chattiness, problems multi-tasking, lack of organization, and lack of passion are not preferred answers. A recruiter will typically give a candidate a way out of a deal breaking answer by following up with “How has this affected you in a role?” This should be a fairly obvious cue to explain how you’ve managed your weakness and swing back around to talking about your strengths.
Further, a weakness cannot be a skill that is fundamental to the role. Shyness is not a good weakness for business development, for example. These are potential “derailers” for recruiters when the candidate basically knocks themselves out of the job.
As with the example above, a weakness does not have to be a skill, but can also be a personality trait. Someone who is very creative may have problems with following through on ideas, but again, this can be balanced by giving examples of how the candidate teamed up with others to mitigate the weakness.
In summary, what recruiters are looking for is:
- Evidence of self-awareness
- Evidence of how weaknesses are managed
Best answers will:
- Explain how the candidate hopes the role will develop their weaknesses
- Relate back to strengths
- Explain how teaming up with others overcome weaknesses
Worst answers will:
- List weaknesses essential to performance in the role