More Thoughts on the “What’s Your Weakness?” Question

July 13th, 2009 by lewis

A couple days ago, a reader replied to my How to Answer “What is your biggest weakness?” blog post:

Having been in the recruiting industry myself for 15 years, I rarely see that question asked anymore. Why? Because people have been coached to death on it and employers know it.

Here are my thoughts on the topic:
Many hiring managers still ask the “What’s Your Weakness?” question or a slight variation. Why? They need to determine each candidate’s weakness; they can’t make hiring decisions by only comparing strengths across candidates.

Reflecting on candidate responses to the weakness question, they fall into three buckets: average, above-average, and top-notch.
  • Average: These candidates probably heard the tip: “turn your weakness into a strength.” These folks are likely to say, “I’m too detail-oriented” or “I work too hard.” Most hiring managers have caught on to this gimmick. Candidates that answer this way come off as insincere.
  • Above-average: These job seekers know this is a booby trap. They tiptoe through this question with a weakness that doesn’t set off any alarms. Savvy hiring managers can sniff out a safe response and will most likely give the candidate partial credit.
  • Top notch: These interview candidates are the best of the best. They mention a genuine weakness because they can see a accurate reflection of themselves and have nothing to hide. They drive for continuous self-improvement, so if they haven’t addressed the weakness already, hiring managers are confident that they will.
Here’s one last thought: with behavioral interview techniques becoming more popular, it’s more likely that interview candidates will unknowingly expose weaknesses during the interview. The best defense: build a arsenal of 10-15 interview stories that put your experiences and skills in the best light.

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