How to use your weaknesses as leverage when answering job interview questions

Mar 11, 2015

Is it possible to answer job interview questions about your weaknesses that get you noticed? We think so.

When you get asked to tell the interviewer about your weaknesses what do you say? Do you answer like most people and try to make your weakness look like a strength? If that’s the case you may say something like, ‘I never stop working’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’.

Avoid standard responses to job interview questions

Trouble is the interviewer will probably know that you are just spinning something out of the usual book of responses; he or she will know your answer to the job interview question doesn’t truly come from your heart.

The other problem with this usual type of response is that is diverts your attention from really focusing on what’s being asked and you will not be able to take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

The worse kind of answer of course is to say something silly like, ‘I don’t have any’ or ‘I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it’.

Answers to interview questions like these indicate that you don’t really know yourself, that you don’t take time to think. The science of interviewing well requires that you fully understand what is being asked and know how to provide the best answer.

Use your weaknesses to sell your strengths in response to job interview questions

We all have weaknesses, even Superman had one; so a better and more believable response is to use your weaknesses to sell your strengths. Explain how you use a strength to nullify a weakness.

So, first let’s think about your strengths, what you do well. Think about the last time you felt really energised and alive while at a task. It should be a task that you feel you can’t wait to do again, one in which the time flew so quickly you barely noticed it.

What were you doing? Filing? Trekking? Playing your guitar? Organsing a party? Chatting with a stranger? Brainstorming ideas?

Now let’s think about your weaknesses, the things that de-energise you. What kind of situations make you feel bored or frustrated, and why? Is there anything you find you just can’t do well no matter how much you try? Perhaps you don’t even want to do it well!

Okay, look at your two lists. The first should give some indication of your strengths and the second your weaknesses. Remember, a strength is something that is born from tasks that energise you; a weakness the opposite.

Interview yourself with these job interview questions

Ask yourself this job interview question: What is it about the task that made me feel energised and excited? Write down your answer(s).

Ask yourself the same job interview question regarding your weakness: What is it about the task that makes me feel bored or frustrated? Again, write your answer down.

Now think about how you can use the information on your strengths lists to combat that on your weakness list.

Formulating job interview questions about weaknesses to sell your strengths

You may be lousy at organisation but have a strong sense of not letting people down. You could say something like, ‘I notice that I often want to just run ahead and get things done rather than organising things first but my sense of responsibility helps me to stop and plan out my work first because I just can’t let my team down.’

You may be really talkative but you could say you have learnt to use your strength as a strategic thinker to plan out how you are going to make what you say clear and relevant to your listeners. You could point out that people often choose you when something needs to be said and no one else wants to say it.

Are you the sort that hates conflict? You don’t like taking sides? Conflicts are inevitable wherever people are so you could sell yourself as the person who strives for peace and harmony so are good at pacifying irate customers or clients.

Being able to answer interview questions about your weaknesses with genuine and well-thought out answers that really do describe who you are and what you have to offer will enable you to stand out from among your peers at any graduate interview.

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