One of the most-searched job interview topics is how to answer questions relating to your greatest workplace weaknesses. Many articles deal with the actual content of your answer: the meat and potatoes of what to say. But what about larger strategic approaches you should consider?
In this short read, I’ll reveal two pro tips to help you develop your own powerful job interview strategy surrounding this question. In an upcoming Part II article, we’ll continue expanding on other ideas to address strengths and weaknesses during your job interview.
Let’s dive right in…
Tip #1: When to reveal your weakness examples
You may wonder about the timing. Do you bring up topics only when asked, or do you introduce topics yourself? Don’t bring up this specific question yourself, but have your answers and strategies ready in the case of greatest weakness. And what if the interviewer never even asks about the greatest weakness story that you’ve carefully prepared? This is a call to have troubleshooting preparation in place!
If they don’t specifically ask, don’t worry. Even if interviewers never explicitly ask about your greatest weakness, they certainly have been assessing your strengths and weaknesses from everything you communicate verbally and non-verbally. Many companies shun these types of done-to-death, super-basic questions and employ a far more sophisticated approach in candidate analysis.
If the specific question never comes up, your preparation and awareness have not gone to waste. Everything you’ve learned and rehearsed always will help you down the road in some way. If the question of weaknesses is not concretely put on the table during the interview, you have two options:
- You never mention it and move on (there is so much else to cover!)
- You “repackage” or “repurpose” your answers and stories – you turn your “weaknesses into strengths” examples into something you can mention towards the end of the interview, once you have warmed up and feel more confident and relaxed.
Pro Tip: Suggestion No. 2 is a great pro-active and cool strategy: Just tag “weakness/strength stories” at the end of the interview. When the interviewer(s) wraps up their questions and asks whether you have anything else you want to know, you always should take advantage of this opportunity. There are so many things that you can say here to shore up your arguments and illustrate why you’re an amazing candidate for the job.
You have the floor and may ask your own questions. How powerful is that! This is the home stretch time of the interview, where you control the narrative. Now is the perfect time to demonstrate your relatable, confident, extremely self-aware side by telling a story of how you took a weakness or professional setback and transformed it into a strength. Thus illustrating a great opportunity for self-development that you identified and mastered.
Tip #2: Balance Your Strengths and Weaknesses
What if you’re tempted to only talk about your strengths?
Well, you could. However, it is much more relatable, confident and impressive to speak to your weaknesses as well.
There may be other candidates who only talk about how great they are the entire time, how the entire span of their career consisted only of high notes.
But this is never true. Nor is it balanced or relatable.
Everyone has their ups and downs. If you can rationally and honestly speak about your downs and setbacks – and frame it as a “learning/growing/development / helping others” experience, you’re demonstrating that you’re ultra-aware. You know how to bounce back, deal with roadblocks, move forward, etc.
That is impressive, it sets you apart from other candidates who want to seem completely perfect. The interview panel will notice and appreciate your honesty and transparency. Very cool.
The key is to pivot from describing a weakness and turning it into a strength, a learning experience.
The pivot takes place during your story and it can go in either direction: you include a strength (or how a weakness turned into strength) when describing a weakness, and you include some vulnerability when you describe a strength.
Options to control the narrative
You always have several ways to control the narrative during a job interview. It really depends on how the interviewers phrase the question. How specific are they?
Job interview questions are open-ended. There is no right or wrong answer, no expected response. You are free to shape the answer your way, but always provide an answer of substance. This demonstrates confidence and owning your track record in a deep and authentic manner.
However, you never want the interview to think “he/she did not answer my question!” because you veered incredibly far off course. That will annoy them and get you points deducted, even if their faces remain friendly.