No matter how most of us wish we could get a job without going the rigorous interviews, there’s no way to avoid job interviews. One way or another you are sitting across a panel interview and your heart is pounding or you are relatively calm….you are doing well, or so you think. There’s a pause in the room and the next question is;

“Tell me George…What’s your greatest weakness?”

Or simply,

“What are your weaknesses?”

Huh, why would the interviewer want to know about your weaknesses? Why can’t s/he focus on your strong points? You’ve got a couple of those up your sleeve waiting to wow the room. Unfortunately, that’s not how job interviews work.

Exactly what does the interviewer want to know when they pose this question?

The interviewer is interested in knowing how self-aware you are, two, are you honest enough to admit to your weak points? And three, “is showing self-improvement. You should include details about the steps you’re taking to learn a skill to correct that particular weakness,” cites Natalie Severt a Resume Expert at Zety.

While you are doing this though, you don’t want to make it seem like your flaws are absolute, or worse, you don’t want to sabotage yourself. The key point of salvaging your weaknesses without hurting your chances of getting the job or scathing your character in the process is by highlighting what you have learned about your weakness/es, and what you are doing to improve it/them.

Here are sample answers addressing three most of the obvious weaknesses faced by a lot of people i.e. being too self-critical, the issue of perfectionism (which most people chose to address) and finally, lack of experience in a particular field.

Example weakness 1: Self-critical
Are you self-critical to the point that it holds you back? Here is a sample answer with the right word framing.

“I tend to be too critical of myself. This is a pattern which I’ve noticed throughout my career. I often feel I could have done more. This sometimes boarders on negative self-talk and burn out in the process. However, over the years I have learnt to actively pause and celebrate my achievements. Not only has this helped my own self-esteem, but it has also helped me genuinely appreciate and recognize my career journey as well as my team.”

Example weakness 2: Perfectionism
Although deemed by many HR professionals as a strength, a number of job seekers opt to state their perfectionism as a weakness. This is only so when it’s something worth looking into and when not trying to come out as a miss goody two shoes.

“I sometimes tend to be a perfectionist and can linger on the details of a project which can threaten deadlines. Early on in my career, when I worked as a Customer Representative for ABC company, that very thing happened. I was always grappling over the details and in turn, caused my manager to be stressed out when I almost missed the deadline on my deliverables. I learned the hard way back then, but I did eventually learn to let go. Today I’m always aware of how what I’m doing affects my team and management. I’ve learned how to find the balance between perfect and very good and being timely.”

Example weakness 3: Lack of experience in a particular area
Say for example you are not conversant in one particular aspect of your job which might also be a requirement on the job you are applying for. Because, let’s face it, there are those pesky areas or skills where we all fall shorthand.

Here is what you should chose to say

“I’m not familiar with the latest version of [insert name of non-critical software]. Instead, I’ve focused on [insert name of preferred software] because user-centric design has become a strong passion of mine. In my last few jobs, that’s where I’ve spent time learning and growing.”

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