This question can be a blessing in disguise, so don’t shy away from it! The goal of this question is to help measure cultural fit by analysing the following factors: how humble is this candidate? How transparent are they in talking about difficult subjects? One approach to answering is to analyse the key skills needed for the position and then come up with an honest shortcoming which is not essential for success in that job. The ideal answer shows introspection and ends with some step towards self-improvement that you have already taken.
When asked about your strengths and weaknesses, state your weaknesses first and then move on to your strengths, so to end on a more assertive and positive note.
This question comes in many guises. Please be aware that a more experienced interviewer may instead ask: ‘What do you perceive as your key areas for development?’
Three tips for structuring your answer
- Tell a story where you learned from a mistake In interviews, it’s always good to give specific examples. Here, you can mention something relatively minor went wrong, and how you learned from it.
- Turn a negative into a positive experience Everyone has areas that could use improvement, but if you can describe how you’ve managed yours, you’ll seem capable and in charge of your professional development. Think of something you struggle with but are working to improve, for example, you could explain that you’ve never been strong at pubic speaking, but over the past few years you’ve conducted meetings and found tools to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.
- Show a weakness as a strength Choose a shortcoming that can be explained in a positive light. For example, are you unable to delegate? Instead, use this as a professional strength: ‘Sometimes I have a hard time letting a project leave my hands until it’s absolutely finalised’. This answer showcases the area you need to improve, but explains it in a positive way. Next, you need to explain how you addressed this shortcoming, e.g. ‘However, I’ve found it’s more effective to get feedback on a project along the way and be open to other work colleagues’ input’.
More examples related to your field of expertise
‘I really need to understand the potential for using (insert program / software) I’m able to demonstrate the basics, however I’d like to look in to the potential it offers…’
‘In our industry, there’s a big push for adopting (insert key word) way of working, so I need to understand how I adapt my own working methods to align with it…’
Remember, inadequacies can be channeled towards the path of progress. The main aim of this answer is to project a positive attitude and highlight what you have been undertaking to overcome your limitations. Finally, you should assure the interviewer that you possess the potential to convert your flaws into a visible strength.