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How to answer the ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ interview question

Published: Thursday 16th March 2017

Male being interviewed in front of a panel

You know it’s coming. You had hoped the interviewers share the same sentiment as you do: that it’s a silly question which needs to be consigned to the dustbin of interview questions. But with monotonous inevitability, it rears its head in every interview you’ve ever had. Could be the interviewer has always wanted to ask it, just to see the interviewee squirm.

Nevertheless, pleading the 5th Amendment when the question comes up won’t cut it. Your options really are threefold:

1) Make a joke of it
2) Go with a cheesy/cliched answer
3) Or make a genuine attempt to show how you balance your weaknesses with your strengths

The fact is, the third option is the only option, and to stumble on this interview question indicates a lack of preparation. And while glib answers may seem, well glib, at least you’ve thought about it.

An employer asks this question in an interview because they are looking for an honest answer that reveals something about who you are. And while you need not bare your soul to them, you do need to make a genuine attempt at highlighting your weaknesses (especially as they relates to the job), and show awareness of how you address these weaknesses. A problem-solution kind of approach.

There are of course many ways to answer this question. Example answers include.
‘I don’t know everything about the digital space, but I’m looking forward to learning – I’ve a thirst for knowledge’
‘In digital marketing, it would be Analytics, but then that’s why we have data analysts’
‘I don’t know but I’m looking forward to learning’
‘I get distracted on one task to the detriment of others, so I use time management apps’
‘Perfecting my current skills to the detriment of emerging skills…’

Above all though, avoid the clichéd answers like ‘I’m a bit too much of a perfectionist…’

There are variations on this question which include ‘if you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? Or ‘If we called your previous employer, what would they say would be an area you could improve on?’ Also, beware of, or at least be prepared for, a follow up question.

Ready to test your answers to this interview question? Land your next interview with a job you found on Zoek.


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