The “what are your weaknesses” question is universally the one that most interviewees are afraid of being asked, and the question that most interviewers are most likely to ask. Therefore there is no reason not to have an excellent answer.
No one likes to admit that they have a weakness, whether it be for chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate, or procrastinating until the very last minute before an important project is due.
The key to answering this question correctly is to provide a weakness, and discuss how you have overcome it, or are working to overcome it. An example I always use is that unless I'm constantly vigilant, my desk can turn into an absolute hovel of papers. I have a tendency to let things pile up even after I've completed a project, thinking that I'll still need to refer to my notes in the future. It's only after a few weeks have snuck by and I make a desperate attempt to find the desktop again, that I realize that I didn't need to save as much paperwork as I did.
Because I know that this has the potential to be a big problem for me, I’ve changed my work habits to make sure that I set aside time when I come into the office every Friday morning to clear off my desk and prioritize my projects for next week. I have found that it makes me feel much more sane, and keeps me productive.
Note in the above example how I discussed my weakness: that it's always been a problem, and how I work to overcome it on a weekly basis. Also note that admitting this specific weakness probably won't keep me from getting the job-unless the hiring manager is a compulsive neat freak (in which case it's probably best that I not work for them).
Avoid weaknesses that could seriously cast doubt on your work ethic or personality. Never discuss coming into work late, personality conflicts, or the quintessential "I work too hard" as a weakness. First, nobody wants to take a chance on you if you have the first two weaknesses, and nobody actually believes the third one. Acceptable weaknesses are a fear of public speaking, or the constant battle to stop a common bad habit, and others that are not typically job-threatening. Don't forget to show how you are working to overcome these weaknesses.
By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com
Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com