I was recently inspired to write this by Ms Sarah Wilson from The Ladders - she sent me this great article and asked me what advice I would share (article link: http://info.theladders.com/career-advice/how-to-discuss-your-biggest-weakness-in-interview). I have a lot of content on interviewing and how to interview but I have not spent the time to address this one piece - how to answer the dreaded "What is your biggest weakness" question while on an interview.
The whole set up of any interview is to be as "perfect" as possible and now you are asked to talk about why you are NOT perfect. Hiring managers and everyone knows that it is impossible to truly be perfect but what this question requires is a little finesse. I talk a lot about the bragalogue or the telling of stories while on an interview. Not long winded, never-ending stories, but quick insights into who you are and how you handle your work-life, all crafted to show the human side of you. Doing a bragalogue right is something that is very hard to do without practicing it a lot. When it comes to answering the biggest weakness question, you want to do something I will dub the human-alogue. You want to show you are human and also show you handle the fact that sometimes you falter.
So, the old advice was to always answer this question with an actual weakness that was really a strength. Like, "I just work too hard" - I think this is overdone and quite frankly, annoying. Anyone who hears this type of answer is inwardly rolling their eyes. Obviously, this question did not go away - it is still considered a go-to interview question and to make yourself stand out (in a good way) try answering it with a human-alogue. Tell a story about what you really are weak in and how you accommodate that weakness - how you worked to overcome it.
This makes you human, approachable and shows you can handle "adversity" - you have to think about what this means to you. Did you, in the past, micromanage a team? Did that happen because you have a Type A personality? (And yes, I am speaking from experience - I did learn that my type A personality could come at a weakness if I tried to exert control over everyone and everything around me without having trust in my team). So you could say, " When I was working at XYZ, I had a stint that I like to refer to as "control-town" - I executed too much control over my team and not enough trust in their abilities to do their tasks well without me micro-managing them. One day, I had an epiphany and realized that as long as I mentored and was available to my team for any questions or issues, I did not have to be involved with every decision and task. This is when I learned to delegate and to be the great manager I am today because I now do XYZ when I lead ... " And so on and so on. Having these bite sized stories to tell (not only for the biggest weakness question) can help you establish a relationship with the interviewer and hopefully get you your next step.
Also, be sure to check out The Ladders new job market guides to assist professionals in any stage of their career.
What do you think about my advice? How do you answer this interview question? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen