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How to answer the question 'What are your weaknesses?'

Updated on July 12, 2011

Remember

The whole idea of an interview is to make the interviewer think that you are the best person for the position.

Think of yourself as a doctor, a healer if you will.

The company is in pain and hence it has advertised for a position.They need someone who can come in, take charge of things and take care of them, they need someone to reduce that pain.You are the doctor they are seeking out.

The interviewer is there to select you and not to reject you.

Every Interview Question seeks to find out / draw out/ bring to the fore some trait or the other.   The interviewer uses a number of questions to get a 360 degree view of the candidate (YOU) and make up his/her mind on the following:

  • Are you the right fit for the company / position / team?
  • Do you know what the company does/ company's mission / vision etc?
  • Do you really, really want this job?
  • Are you as talented/hard working/ sincere/ etc etc as you are trying to show?

Lombardo and Eichinger (For Your Improvement: A Developmental And Coaching Guide, 1996) make a compelling case for the importance of self-knowledge: “Self knowledge is strongly related to success in life and work. In one study, the best predictor of a high performance appraisal was seeing yourself as others see you; the best predictor of a low one was overrating your skills” … “A blind spot is the worst thing you can have. You can really get into performance or career trouble with a blind spot, because you don't know or are unwilling to admit you're not good at it. You will venture into areas that should make you cautious and humble, but you go in strutting and confident. Disaster soon follows. An important life and career goal is to have no blind spots” (p.328).

Why ask the question 'What are your weaknesses?'

Why would an interviewer ask the question 'What are your weaknesses?'

Who would answer that truthfully? To me it just seems a silly question and I am sure to people appearing for interviews it must seem the same.

And yet, a lot, and I mean a lot of interviewers ask this question. Are they doing it because they saw someone else do it or is it just a form of habit?

It could be that, but it could also be more.

There is a growing awareness of something we call 'Blind Spots'. These are essentially gaps in our self-knowledge that affect our work, our relationships etc.

These are things we dont know, we dont know.

So lets say someone gets agitated every time you challenge their thought or idea. But if you ask them if they are receptive to feedback, they say they are and very much so. This is a blind spot. Not knowing yourself or not knowing what ails you, affects you, your performance and your team is 'blind spot'.

The interview question 'What are your weaknesses?' is aimed at these blind spots. The premise is that if you know something you may still be able to do something about it, however, if you are in the dark (unaware) of your own shortcomings, it may be very difficult to change that behavior or attitude.

Hence the question. The question looks to check your awareness of yourself, your candor and your willingness to acknowledge and improve your own weaknesses.

Examples

Here are some examples

From what I know, this job is essentially a technical one, but does require some degree of public speaking.  I have to confess I am not very comfortable with that, but have been taking sessions to improve that part of me.

So How to answer 'What are your weaknesses?'

The strategy that I would suggest is the following:

1. prepare a list of attributes you think the job you are applying for needs.

2. check your own preparedness against those attributes

3. The attributes that you think you lack in, becomes your weakness.

Remember, and the end of the day, the interviewer wants someone for the job not for friendship.  Personal things like 'I hate hypocrites' or 'I dont think I will ever understand the popularity of Twilight' are of no use to the interviewer.


I would be more than happy to help you improve your answer.

Please leave the following in comments:

  • Name, age, education, position applying for
  • exact words you currently plan on using to answer this question.

I will then try and improve it for you.

Weaknesses - Examples - List

  • Fearful
  • Obstructive
  • Pushy
  • Loose-tongued
  • Mistrustful
  • Undisciplined
  • Sloppy
  • Rude
  • Contemptuous
  • Short-sighted
  • Passive
  • Aggressive
  • Bossy
  • Chaotic
  • Cynical
  • Blunt
  • Stand-offish
  • Vague
  • Inflexible
  • Moody
  • Indifferent
  • Intolerant
  • Wasteful
  • Stubborn
  • Reckless
  • Inhibited
  • Naive
  • Greedy
  • Fanatical
  • Dull
  • Arrogant
  • Lazy
  • Selfish
  • Complaining
  • Impatient
  • Hard
  • Shallow
  • Strict
  • Shy
  • Prejudiced
P.S. Please do not use these to describe yourself in an interview.  Use these to test yourself and find your true weaknesses so that you can do something about them.

Comments

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    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @navjot singh Thank you. I am so glad it helped. How are things at the college?

    • profile image

      navjot singh 

      7 years ago

      u great Mr.Bedi..../ after reading ur interview tips ..now i definately able to gve any interview in dis industry..thanx Mr.Bedi

      Navjot Singh

      SHRM

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @getmeajob I would love to. please visit www.hospemag.com for hotel jobs and www.myairlinecareer.com for airline jobs

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @jobseeker I think you should. In today's day and age, blind spots are a hindrance to being recognized as a leader.

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @Teylina well said!

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @Nicky Thank you!

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 

      7 years ago

      Hey, jobseeker, hard as it is, don't we need to be with ourselves, even if we don't ever share it w/anyone? And, getmeajob, I'd hand you one over if I could, but then, I'd have been doing that for so many people I could have a patent on the process and get rich! I LIKE your honesty!

    • profile image

      getmeajob 

      7 years ago

      i need a job

    • profile image

      jobseeker 

      7 years ago

      would you suggest that we be honest?

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 

      7 years ago

      Yeah, Nicky, I liked the way he approached this, too. prabhjotbedi, I read a lot; soak it up, may or may not remember. Things like this always intrigue me: the human spirit/lack thereof/awareness. I don't believe everyone can at any point in life always be able to (as my mother used to say) 'jack oneself up by the bootstraps' and keep going. Many of us can, many cannot. Our weaknesses/strengths are as unique to us as our fingerprints. This list is awesome, and I can see me in here--fortunately have some strengths to overcome these at different times. Human interaction, psychology, impact of all aspects of life on selves/others. Interaction w/animals/earth. My spirituality is solid; I tend to stay within my circle of love/life and rarely read outside any more. Have already studied, read, etc.

    • Nicky Smart profile image

      Nicky Smart 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a list! What a way to approach this subject! Really good!

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @Teylina Well in that case, thank you so much for stopping by and reading some of this :) I do hope to write other content that might interest you.

      btw, what would you like to read about?

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 

      7 years ago

      Will do. I'm way past doing them (I hope), but always passing along tidbits to others. Thanks again.

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 

      7 years ago

      Will do. I'm way past doing them (I hope), but always passing along tidbits to others. Thanks again.

    • prabhjotbedi profile imageAUTHOR

      Prabhjot Bedi 

      7 years ago from chandigarh

      @Teylina Thank you! Please do check out my other hubs on interview skills

    • Teylina profile image

      Teylina 

      7 years ago

      What a list! What a way to approach this subject! Really good!

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