Answering the question "what is your greatest weakness" during a job interview can be difficult. Even though the interview is an opportunity to sell yourself to the employer (applies the same to a college interview), many candidates stumble when asked about their weaknesses and fail to present themselves in the best possible light to potential employers.
In this article, we want to recommend some ways job interviewees can turn their weakness into your strength and make them a more attractive candidate than their competition.
Highlight a strength that compensates for your weakness
No one is perfect. We all have weaknesses. However, we can offset our weaknesses by highlighting our strengths. When we focus on our strengths, it allows us to compensate for our weaknesses. Think about your own personal strengths. What do you excel at? What comes naturally to you? These are the qualities that you can use to offset your weaknesses.
Examples of strengths that can compensate for weakness in a job candidate
There are many strengths that can compensate for weaknesses in a job candidate. Strengths and weakness comes in pairs; depending how you twist your story, you can make it sound like the weakness isn't a weakness.
Here are some examples of strengths that can compensate for weaknesses at work:
- Resilient vs unable to handle stress. You may be a great asset in a fast-paced environment where deadlines are often tight because you cannot cope with the pressures and stress. However, as an employee, you put in extra effort, work more hours, try hard, fail and try again. You don't give up at your work. Your persistence and resilience counteracts your inability to handle stress well. At the same time, you also show your positive outlook and great work ethic, which any employee would crave for.
- Writing well vs unable to do public speaking. Another strength may be a job candidates excellent language ability. Insofar as he may not be able to articulate his ideas in a presentation or in a public setting, this job applicant can translate his language ability to deliver his thoughts by written reports, emails or creating work documentation. Maybe this worker can control and make others do the public speaking for him with his leadership skills? Work output is effectively the same when the communication is received by the end user.
Next, the broad outline on how any interviewee can use their strength to cover for their weaknesses is explained:
1. Be aware of your weaknesses
Before you can start highlighting your strengths, you need to be aware of what your weaknesses are. This first step will help you identify which strengths will be most effective in compensating for them.
2. Use positive self-talk
Once you know what your weaknesses are, it's time to start using positive self-talk to counteract them. For example, if you're worried about being too shy, tell yourself that you're actually confident and outgoing when it matters most.
3. Focus on your successes
When highlighting your strengths, focus on past successes rather than potential future ones. This will help build up confidence and show others that you have what it takes to compensate for any weaknesses
Reframe your perspective: Negative qualities are only bad things for you and you only
Your greatest weakness does not have to be a negative quality. Stop thinking that way. Weakness can be something that you are working on improving or that you see as a strength in disguise.
For example, if you tend to be a perfectionist, you could say that your greatest weakness is that you sometimes spend too much time on tasks and fail to delegate them properly.
However, this can also be seen as a strength. A negative quality is negative because you perceive it to be. Reframe and reword your explanation, and being a perfectionist can sound good as well.
Perfectionism shows that you are detail-oriented and care about the quality of your work. That is a plus point!
No matter what your greatest weakness is, try to frame it in a positive light during your job interview. Focus on how you have overcome your weakness (more examples in the next section).
A second example on how to reframe the same negative quality of perfectionism
Using the same example of perfectionism, you can frame this as a strength by saying that it means you're always striving for excellence and are never satisfied with mediocrity.
Explain that negative qualities exist when there is imperfection, which occurs in the early stage or when you are new and unfamiliar. As when you iteratively improve bit-by-bit, you get more skilled and efficient. Taking time to go through this developmental stage reap rewards subsequently.
Of course, you don't want to come across as arrogant or like you're making excuses for your weaknesses. So make sure to balance your answer by also acknowledging what steps you're taking to improve upon your weaknesses.
Third example: Reframing your weakness of being overwhelmed
If you tend to get overwhelmed easily (crushed by workload, management pressures, tight deadlines, etc.), say that you're working on developing better time management skills and prioritizing tasks so that everything doesn't seem so daunting.
Instead of looking at everything as one big overwhelming task, try to break it down into smaller manageable tasks. By taking things one step at a time, you can make significant progress without feeling overwhelmed.
Conclusion: Draw attention back to your positive aspects
Concluding on a positive note is key. Thank the interviewer for giving you the opportunity to share your thoughts and let them know that despite having weaknesses like everyone else, you’re confident in your ability to overcome them. In this way, your draw attention back to the good things you said about yourself and not the things which make you look bad.