This is the question almost everyone asks when preparing for a job interview. Normally people have a good handle on their strengths and can list those with no problem, but the weaknesses almost always create an obstacle for them. Oftentimes, the dilemma is that they don’t want to mention a weakness that makes them sound…..well….weak. Thankfully there is no right or wrong answer and the truth of the matter is EVERYONE has strengths and EVERYONE has weaknesses. It’s just a matter of how you communicate them. While you want to be honest, you don’t want to raise any unnecessary red flags.
Now, there are 3 important things you want to remember. First, instead of describing it as a “weakness,” describe it as “an opportunity to improve.” Just simply changing the wording, instantly makes it seem less horrific. Secondly, when answering this question end on a positive note and have a way to fix it. This says to an employer that you are already aware of the issue and you are being proactive about correcting it. Thirdly, only have 1 or 2 areas that you need to improve. This is NOT the time to get carried away and list all your insecurities. Remember, you are trying to get a job so don’t air your dirty laundry!
OK….I have a feeling that you’re probably still not convinced. You’re not completely sold on the idea of being able to tell someone your less than flattering work habits in an eloquent manner. You’re still skeptical aren’t you? At this point you’ve probably recalled a job interview that you’ve had in the past where you were asked this question and instantly began panicking. Luckily for you, today is the day the panicking stops. You’re going to get the help you need to be able to successfully get through this portion of the interview without sending your potential employer running for the hills. So, let’s just get right to it…let’s turn those “weaknesses” into “opportunities to improve.” Below are some examples of the most common “weaknesses” and ways you can present them more positively.
1) Arriving late for work or not completing tasks on time
“An area that I can improve is my time management. I realize that things must be done in a timely manner and not being on time affects the overall flow of business. In a team environment, everyone depends on each other so timeliness is important. To help with this, I have begun to set reminders for myself throughout the day and set my watch 5 minutes early.”
2) Fear of public speaking
“An area that I can improve is my public speaking because sometimes I’m concerned that I might not be communicating effectively. I try to overcome this by practicing in advance and being very familiar with my topic. This puts me at ease and allows me to connect with my audience and deliver a good presentation. I know the more I practice, the better I will become in this area.”
3) Trying to be a perfectionist or not feeling confident in your work
“An area that I can improve is not trying to be a perfectionist. I have to constantly remember to not be so hard on myself and give myself room to grow. I believe that once I become more skilled at a job, I will be more confident and not feel the need to spend so much time double checking my work.”
4) Taking on too much work or not knowing how to say no to others
“An area that I can improve is not taking on too much work and learning how to say no to others. I am very passionate about my work and I like to stay busy. However, sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed. I am learning that it is okay to not be busy every second of the day and taking a break can sometimes be very helpful. Also, I know my co-workers will understand once I explain that I’m not able to help them because my plate is already full.”
5) Bringing your work home with you instead of leaving it at the office
“An area that I can improve is not bringing my work home with me at night. Oftentimes, I continue to worry about things at work after I have left for the day. I am learning that it is very important to have work-life balance so that I can have time to spend with those that I care about. If I find myself thinking about work after hours, I just make a note as a reminder to take care of it the next day.”
6) Needing to improve your leadership skills
“An area that I am working to improve is my leadership skills. I like for things to be done efficiently so it can cause me to sometimes get a little frustrated. I am learning to take a step back and be confident in the skills of others. If I feel something needs to be done differently, I make sure I am clear with my expectations and give my team the tools they need to be successful. Communication is definitely the key.”
So you see…it can be done. Saying what your “areas of improvement” are doesn’t have to be a scary thing. You can present them in a way that shows your potential employer you are just like everybody else – NOT PERFECT! Your particular weakness might not be listed above, but I’m sure you can tailor your answer based on the few examples I gave. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer and ending on a positive note makes all the difference.
Dena Bilbrew has given career advice to over 3000 people nationwide. Her career has spanned 20 years and has included 3 different industries – information technology, retail management, and career services. Her keen ability to connect with the people she advises is due to the several changes in her own career. With each career change she realized the importance of transferable skills and the value of “reinventing” yourself. Dena’s passion for helping others led her to launch DB Professional Concepts (www.dbprofessionalconcepts.com), which is designed to assist jobseekers nationwide with the tools needed to be successful in their careers. She wants to empower others to take their future into their own hands and have the career they desire. You can email Dena Bilbrew directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to get assistance with resume restructuring, cover letter development, interview preparation, job search strategies, LinkedIn profiles, personalized coaching sessions, etc.