According to the WikiHedgeHogs Online Interview Guide for the Strategically Challenged, when asked questions such as ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ especially around the hour of 11am, statistically speaking, one thinks of food – in particular Belgian waffles by their soft goodness, crispy outer shell, fried with careful precision, the 2 centimetres of whipped cream, sliced fresh fruit … But that’s not what your interviewer is asking. What he really wants to know is, what are your professional weaknesses. We all have them whither we want to admit them or not. So, take a breath, ignore the stomach roaring and think about what you personally did WRONG.
It is never pleasant to think of such matters, even worse to admit to them. But you’ve been asked. So, dig into those painful darkened crevices of your mind and respond. Of course, you may be asking the question ‘Why?’. Why is this important? Why is the interviewer being nosey? Is there a reason? Yes, there is one! Frankly, there’s a reason for everything and the number 42, isn’t always correct. In this case, the interviewer wishes to see your humble side and figure out where you would best fit in his company. For example, while you may be applying for an engineering position, know that your answers could cause the company to pick-up on your hidden talent of being a plumber. Note: If you do not want to work with toilets during your employment, perhaps steer clear of terminology such as trap, shutoff valve, flapper and gasket.
How to respond
Let’s list a few techniques that may help you along your dreaded interview journey. One good strategy is to use the STAR Method. If you don’t know, the STAR Method is a concise way of answering questions. Let’s work together to understand how it works with the question, ‘what is your great weakness’:
S – Situation: Tell the interviewer what you struggle with.
T – Task: How did it affects your day-to-day job.
A – Action: What steps have you taken to conquer it?
R – Result: Have you seen any improvement?
If you are still having problems comprehending the STAR Method, check out our sample question by clicking here.
By using the STAR Method, your thinking process will be more concise, quickly driven to the point, allow your interviewer to tap into your psyche and prove that you can properly relay your thoughts to them.
You may still be questioning how to answer this question. Here are a few tips for how to respond if you are …
WRONG: ‘Whenever something goes haywire, I lose it. I take everything too personally, but with the help of my psychologist and drugs, everything gets fuzzy and I don’t care anymore.’
RIGHT: ‘Sometimes I become emotional during work hours. This flustered not only me, but also my coworkers. However, since then, I have discovered my emotions can be turned into a great resource of productivity. Thus, instead of taking my sensitivity out on my coworkers, I am able to channel it towards my actual work.’
Your response tells your interviewer that you try to change your weakness to a strength and are likely to do the same in future situations.
WRONG: ‘I think a lot. As I’m working on projects, I typically have to stop because I realise a prior step in the development was wrong then I go back and fix it. This is a repetitive motion, so I take a lot of time completing projects, but in the end, I have a superb product!’
RIGHT: ‘I have the fault of overthinking. This can cause difficulties when it is time to finish a project. However, I now limit my overthinking by smartly beginning the project by planning it out. Once that is completed, I can more dutifully work on my project without overthinking every step along the way.’
An answer such as this shows that you are a schedule and organised individual. Your interviewer will likely appreciate this and grant you brownie points in the long run.
Unable to focus:
WRONG: ‘I have problems focusing. Especially with coworkers who constantly talk to me. I know, I’m super popular at work, but I’m not there to socialise, I’m there to work, you know? So, I Googled a few tips and found a great video on how to properly duct tape coworkers to walls. It works great, I can work all the time now!’
RIGHT: ‘Sometimes I have problems focusing and am distracted frequently. I find that if I put earbuds in my ears and listen to music then I can easily drown out the commotion around me and pay attention to work.’
By responding this way, your interviewer can see how you think through a situation and use even simplistic means to solve a problem.
Hopefully, now you feel a bit better with responding to shenanigan questions such as your top weakness. Remember never dodge a question. As mentioned above, the interviewer wants to see your humanity. Unless you are someone such as Superman, you likely have a few flaws. What the interviewer wants to know is which flaws you have and, more importantly, how you have tried to correct them. Now, without having an overload, click here to find out how to respond to questions such as what are your top strengths. Good luck!