Every time I interview, there’s a question that stumps me. I never know what to say when the interviewer asks, “What are your weaknesses?” How should I respond? — Vladimir, Brooklyn
Answering the “Weakness” question is like walking along a tight rope: a solid answer is a step toward making it through unscathed, while a misstep could send everything crashing down. There’s no perfect response because each job and interview is different, but here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you stay on track:
DON’T call it a weakness.
It’s a negative word, so flip it around to describe an area or technology you want to learn more about: “Well, let me first say that I don’t think there is an easy way to answer that question. I risk either shooting myself in the foot or coming across as insincere. I’m sure I have areas that need improvement, we all do. I would have to point to an area like (fill in the blank) that I would like to get more exposure to so that I can apply it to my role.”
DO keep it relevant.
Your answer should be relevant to your professional life. Being a terrible driver or a shopaholic isn’t pertinent (unless you are applying to become a long haul trucker or retail manager), but a lack of Fixed Income knowledge for a Credit Front Office Risk position or GUI development for a C#/WPF Developer role might be.
DON’T throw up any Red Flags.
Employers don’t want to hear about how you have trouble waking up on time or that you are sometimes “blinded by anger.” There might not be a foolproof answer, but there are answers that only come from fools.
DO consider the firm and position.
Certain answers work better in one environment than another. If you’re interviewing for a Java Tech Lead role and you mention you are shy or scared of confrontation, the interviewer may feel you’re a poor fit for a leadership position. Even a cliche answer like “I tend to work too much” may work in an environment where the developers are expected to put in 60 hour weeks. A good recruiter will provide you with background on the company and role before your interview to help you sculpt an answer.
DON’T choose something that can’t be fixed.
For IT professionals, your answer should reflect a knowledge of the skills that are necessary to thrive in the position. A C#/.Net Developer applying for a role that might involve Java down the road could mention a lack of professional Java experience, as long as they follow up by mentioning they are in the process of getting Java certified.
DO show how you’re working to improve.
Whatever your weakness, you should show a desire to improve. Taking classes in C++ signals you’re trying to fill a knowledge gap, volunteering for a new development project displays a desire to beat shyness, and offering to spearhead a system rollout shows a desire to gain leadership skills.
DON’T spin you’re weakness to sound cocky.
Your interviewer isn’t expecting you to be 100% perfect — they are looking for a humanizing answer. Saying, “I’m a workaholic, but it’s OK because I’m three times more productive than the average Oracle DBA,” will leave the interviewer with a bad impression. It is acceptable to show a desire to improve on a weakness, but it’s hard to spin a weakness into a strength without coming off as arrogant.
How do you usually answer the “Weaknesses” question? Email us and let us know!