Military and civilian job seekers alike live in fear of how to answer the mother of all common interview questions. Every candidate dreads that point in the interview—whether by phone or face-to-face—when the interviewer asks, “Tell me, what’s your biggest weakness?”
Being that person on the other side of the desk takes immense self-discipline, as the range of responses can evoke anything from quizzical stares and a press for clarification to gales of laughter. I’ve been told, “I could be a better speller.” (Ever heard of spell check?) How about, “I work too hard,” or “I’m too nice to people.” Or, my personal favorite, “I can’t think of any right now, can I get back to you?”
What is a qualified job applicant to do? The answer: Tell the truth. The problem for many job seekers is that they do not really know or understand their most serious drawback; it’s all too often a real blind spot.
A person’s biggest weakness is nothing more than the flip side of his or her greatest strength. Let me explain.
What Does It Take?
Most of us possess a core set of talents and attributes which define our personality, and in particular, our behavior in certain situations such as the workplace. These talents and attributes dictate how we react to various work-related circumstances during the course of a regular workday. They can be both a strength and a weakness. For example:
Urgency: When presented with an immediate deadline, many people react quickly and show a strong sense of urgency to complete the assignment in a timely fashion. However, there will be occasions when that same strong sense of urgency results in impatience for results, when a relaxed approach might be more appropriate. Hence, the flip side of urgency is impatience.
Brainpower: Being very bright can actually be a weakness. Many times, smart people believe they have all of the answers and are reluctant to take feedback from others. In this instance, brainpower, which is normally a major strength, becomes a liability if close-mindedness and resistance to the input of others take precedence.
Interpersonal skills: Consider the normally prized attribute of being able to get along with everyone, regardless of their level or position in the organization. This quality is truly a gift, and few people possess it. So how could it also be a weakness? This same caring and concerned individuals who can relate well to anyone have a habit of trying to please all of the people, all of the time. Their weakness is, of course, that when there is a legitimate argument or dispute it’s impossible to achieve complete agreement; hence, somebody will be disappointed, and people-pleasers have a hard time accepting this fact of life.
Don’t Cower in Fear
You need not cower in fear of this dreaded interview question or seek to provide answers which rate high on creativity and comic value, but low on credibility. Instead, be prepared to answer the question directly and with confidence. You will not go wrong.