If you read our recent article on how to knock your interview questions out of the park, you’re 90% of the way there on dominating the “weaknesses” curveball. Because you know that all questions boil down to the one and only question you’re ever really asked in an interview: “Why should I hire you?”
So how do you respond to the “Why shouldn’t I hire you?” question with a “Seriously, you should hire me” answer?
1. Let this sink in: they will want to hire you because of how you address your weaknesses, not because you don’t have any
Some people think the point of this question is to share that you have no weaknesses, or that you only have a little weakness that’s smaller than other candidates' big weaknesses. Queue a big whoppin’ Donald Trump "wrong." (Too soon?)
The point is to demonstrate how you address less-than-perfect situations in the workplace. If you follow the below response template, your interviewer will want to hire you because you’ll show her:
- You are aware of your weaknesses -- you’re a self-aware candidate
- You are already working to address them -- you’re a proactive candidate that solves problems instead of creating them
- You will continue to address and leverage these weaknesses when hired -- you’re a candidate who turns weaknesses into strengths!
2. Recognize that weaknesses are often strengths in excess*, and identify your own double-edged sword
Preparing for this question gives you an opportunity for self-analysis -- take it! The truth is, weaknesses are often our greatest strengths in too much abundance. If you apply a strength too often, too rigidly or without enough empathy for how others may interpret or react, it can result in some sticky situations.
- Attention to detail: this makes you a high quality work contributor, but in excess it can lead to being a perfectionist
- Being a hard worker: this makes you a heavy lifter, but can lead to taking on too much, burning yourself out or producing lower quality work
- Working autonomously: this can mean you’re easy to manage and great at getting things done, but it can also lead to conflicts with colleagues or your manager who want to be kept in the loop and work as a team
- Being honest with your feedback: this means you’re interested in making things better and keeping relationships open, but if practiced in excess can disrupt relationships and team progress
Ask yourself about your most challenging moments at work to-date: what about your approach or actions contributed to these challenges; how did you and do you continue to respond? Discern which weakness will help you best illustrate your strength, and how you are the self-aware, problem-solving, weakness-leveraging candidate your prospective employer wants.
3. Use the response template that employs the unbeatable pivot phrase: “But I will say…”
Once you’ve digested the purpose of this question and selected a weakness to share, get ready to practice your response using the most powerful and optimistic pivot phrase: “but I will say...” This phrase helps you quickly shift from stating your weaknesses to spending the majority of your response illustrating your greatness.
Here’s one example of a stellar response broken down in our proven interview response formula, with the added “but I will say” twist:
If I had to point to one weakness I’m working on, it would be that I really thrive when working autonomously. I’ve had experiences in the past when I’ve felt micro-managed and had to struggle to make sure it didn’t impact the quality of my work or relationships.
But I will say, it’s something that I have worked hard to proactively address and I now feel makes me an even stronger contributor.
I have developed the habit of making sure all projects I’m a part of have a clearly defined set of goals, team member roles and roadmap. I also make sure to sit down with any new manager I have to directly discuss work styles and preferences, so that I know what my manager needs from me to feel confident in my performance. I’ve found that pushing for this clarity up front helps me know when I can run hard on my responsibilities, but even more importantly helps build strong and open team relationships and gives everyone the clarity they need to perform at their best.
From what I’ve learned, your team’s approach is similarly strategic and open, and that’s exactly the type of team I’m hoping to be a part of.
Get ready to be powerfully honest with confidence that your weaknesses really do make you stronger. Give it a whirl and let us know how it goes!
*All this said, some weaknesses are not rooted in strengths and should not be shared. These are the categorically negative weaknesses like being lazy, entitled, or selfish. If one of these sounds like you, I suggest you have some inner work to do before you go out on the job hunt; in my experience, it’s often a sign that you’re in the wrong place at work and need to make a change in a new direction. Addressing this head-on will make you more likely to find the right job for you and be happier and more successful once you’re in it.