Everyone has weaknesses – explaining yours in an interview

It is a common occurrence for an interviewer to ask their interviewee to outline their strengths, and then, like night follows day, ask about the interviewee’s weaknesses. It’s not uncommon for interviewer to throw the question asking you about your weaknesses in with a competency question.

The brutal fact is everyone has weaknesses. The world’s most recognisable and successful leaders – Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Angela Merkel, Jack Ma, Hillary Clinton, you name them – they all have weaknesses. The worst thing you can do in an interview situation when answering the question about your weaknesses is to say: “I have none”. This is total fiction and the interviewer, will in all likelihood, wrap the interview up pretty quickly.

However, having a strategy for answering the weaknesses question is perfectly advisable and it’s what we coach our candidates to think about in advance. In this way, you are dodging a banana skin and positioning yourself well for the rest of the interview process.

• Positive mentality and communication
Turning a weakness into a future strength is a great way of looking at things. It also says a lot about your mentality, too. In many ways, the term ‘weakness’ is a negative word that means you cannot turn it to your advantage, and thereby achieve what you want from your career. Remember you can’t be good at everything – that is impossible. Look at the role and identify where your skill set needs to improve and turn this to your benefit so it helps you reach your dream career destination e.g. “in 10 years, I want to be a Financial Director/CFO, leading a team and directing strategy on the board”. This identifies you may need experience working and developing people, strategy and or experience working with senior decision makers.

• Don’t fall for the trap!
Avoid the trap of an all-encompassing weakness “I can’t delegate”, “Sometimes I work too late”, “I’m impatient”. Answering like this will raise more concerns in the interviewer’s mind than you’ll think. You’ll be answering in good faith but answer like this could hold you back.

Give a situation based ‘weakness’ relevant to the role you are recruiting and then explain how you are working on it. This will, in our experience, please interviewers. Here’s a suitable example. The candidate has said they have trouble asking for help. Here’s how you could turn a perceived negative to a positive and something you’re working towards improving:

“Occasionally, I think I should be able to do a set task/project without requesting help. It’s an obstacle only in my mind. In fact, what I’ve learnt is that it is advantageous for me, my team, my line manager and the business to talk openly about solving a challenge. You get a different perspective which helps me in the future. Working with people with more expertise, this has helped me produce great work. It’s something I’m continually working on.”

• Be self-aware
You’re interviewing for this job because it gives you uplift and career growth. When reviewing the job description, you’ll identify areas that you’ll want to grow in. Remember, you can’t be great in everything!

For instance, if you are interviewing for a Management Accountant job for an international engineering firm, you could explain you don’t possess a lot of international experience or industrial experience, but through experience, working with the embedded team and a thorough induction programme this will set you in good stead.

Being prepared; knowing your skills and experiences and understanding the responsibilities of the job you are interviewing for is the best advice we can give. You can do it!

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy reading about the power of your personal statement on your CV.

Roland Seddon, Managing Director, MRK Associates.

MRK Associates is a recruitment and career advisory company specialising in three distinct areas of professional employment – finance/accountancy jobs, office support/administration jobs and revenue management/yield jobs. Our main geographical focus is in the Northern Home Counties area (Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire) where we provide a personal, knowledgeable and professional service within these markets.

For more information, please telephone 01442 894555 or email: info@mrkassociates.co.uk

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