Let me set the scene: It’s the morning of your interview. Your clothes are pressed, your hair is on fleek, and you woke up two hours early to ensure you made it through the heinous Starbucks line to get your venti cold brew – “light ice plz.” You’re sitting in the lobby, pad folio in hand, when a guy with even more gel in his hair than Chuck Bass (circa 2012) summons you into a conference room.
You almost panic, but you play it cool and take a deep breath. You tell them about yourself as they smile and nod. One interviewer even shares an affinity for your Alma Matter. *Cha ching!* The interview begins to wind down and you’re thinking you’re about to roll out of there like Kanye.
That’s when they hit you with it. “So, tell us about your biggest weakness?”
You hit your potential future employer with one of these.
You realize this won’t suffice. You quickly shake it off and tell your interviewer, “I care too much” or the classic “I’m TOO detailed in my work.” Your interviewers look at you and then each other and then out loud they say “SMH, this guy is the worst.” You’re that guy/girl. The one with the cop out answer. And interviewers hate you.
I’m here to help you not be that person because I promise, you’re better than that. These are the four (major) keys to crafting the perfect answer to that question we all hate.
1. Identify a weakness that you’ve actively been working on
From no personal experience whatsoever, let’s say a “weakness” of yours may be excessive coffee consumption 8/7 days of the week. Coworkers may ask you if you’ve had coffee today and you respond like this:
It’s important for your potential employer to see that you’re able to objectively see faults in yourself. Employers value authenticity. It is equally as important for them to see that you’re teachable – you see a problem and you address it. Even if that “problem” is a beautiful, life-giving, mug of purpose that is the reason you wake up every morning…I digress.
2. Convey how your weakness negatively affected you in the past
You can be as honest and thorough, or as brief and clever as you chose to be for this one. But this is where you’re able to show them that you’re self-aware. For example, “I began to realize that instead of coffee helping me become more attentive, productive and driven, it had the converse affect: making me unable to focus, jittery, and it eventually led to a crash of creativity and momentum.” Now you’ve got your interviewer on the edge of their seat and they’re actually rooting for you.
3. Outline how you’ve been working on your weakness and the steps you’ve taken
“At first, it was really challenging. Friends would extend an invite to the hip new coffee shop and I would reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, wrench out a reply….”
“But after months of discipline, I’ve learned how new habits replace old habits. Green tea isn’t as bad as it once seemed, and lemon water is actually a really refreshing (and jitter-free) beverage to wake up to!” Employers LOVE progress. They love seeing that you’re capable of finding new ways to avert old problems. It’s an indicator to your interviewer that this is the way you’ll take on future challenges and struggles in the workplace and they will eat it up.
4. Give them proof of your progress and let them know others have taken note
Give evidence to how you’ve made progress and back it up with an example. “Last week some colleagues asked me to coffee on our lunch break and I instinctively responded, ‘No thanks’.”
Explain that since cutting back to one cup of coffee a day you’ve noticed a newfound energy and level of focus. Your colleagues have taken notice and even applauded your growth and development. With this step, you’ve shown your interviewer an authentic weakness, but you’ve coupled it with strategic growth. You’ve shown that you have the unique ability to not only identify a weakness, but use that weakness to elicit much needed, positive change.
In real life, 10/10 don’t recommend using “excessive coffee consumption” as a weakness in an interview, but if you follow these guidelines you’ll be well on your way to scoring big points with the big guys. In an interview it’s your humanity that sets you apart; employers don’t want perfection, they want potential. It isn’t a trick question, your weakness could be anything from coffee, to not shining your shoes, to a torrential fear of public speaking. Your interviewers want to know that you’re either self-aware or able to take criticism so well that the end result is always a positive development. You are worth their investment, believe that and they’ll believe it too.