"What is your biggest weakness?"
This is a question you are probably not looking forward to answering. I know this because it is the one question that people ask my advice on the most.
Firstly I would advise not to listen the hundreds of career articles, which tell you to pick a weakness that is also strength. Who really has a weakness that makes them even better? Really? No one is perfect and the person interviewing you will probably see straight through this — I do.
The interviewer would have most likely been the job seeker many times before. They have been asked this question and trust me, they have read the same textbook answers as you and I.
As usual, my advice is to be open and honest. Pick something that you genuinely struggle with, but put your main focus on the way you deliver this to the interviewer.
Follow these steps to ensure you don’t come across as a ‘fibber’ and you continue to build even more trust and rapport with your interviewer.
1) Start your answer with…
‘In the past I have struggled slightly with…’
By saying this you are positioning this weakness as being in the past from the start. The interviewer now thinks this is something you are already dealing with. You are also saying you struggled ‘slightly’ with. Slightly means this is not a big deal. You are not empowering this weakness when you use language like this.
2) Talk about a strength
If your weakness is that you feel uncomfortable talking to large groups of people, you may say: ’however, I am really strong at building rapport one on one and with smaller groups’.
Every negative needs to be counteracted with a positive.
3) Tell them what you are doing about it
The most important thing here is to give a number of practical examples. Maybe you took a course; maybe you spent time with peers who are great at public speaking. Make the interviewer believe that you have given this a lot of thought and focus. Try to use as much ‘past tense’ language as possible, again to reaffirm in the mind of the interviewer that you are dealing with this.
4) Give them a happy story
The best way for me to believe that your weakness is not going to be an issue is if you show me it isn’t going to be an issue. Tell them about a recent time when you overcame your weakness and what the successful outcome was (and felt like!).
You don’t have to be the finished article and you can tell them that you are still ‘dealing with it’, but it would be best to put their mind at ease.
Sticking with the public speaking theme you could say…’recently I had to travel to another office to deliver a message to a large department. I took the advice from the course I attended and I felt confident this time. The messages came across clearly and management said they were really pleased with me. I’m definitely getting there, but I’m still working on it’.
So, follow those steps and try not to sound apologetic in your tone. If you deliver this answer with confidence and sincerity (and don’t say anything too crazy) a good interviewer will credit you for it.