How Your Greatest Weakness Could Cost You Your Dream Job

If you’ve read anything about the most common interview questions, you are very familiar with the “What is your greatest weakness?” question.

We talked to several Aventure Branch Managers and Recruiters about the “Greatest Weakness” question, and they let us know exactly how they feel about it, from why it should stay in the interviewing line-up to the worst ways candidates have responded to the question to how to answer it.

Why The Greatest Weakness Question Is Important

Contrary to some belief, the “weakness question” isn’t designed to weed out candidates, although it certainly can, particularly if a candidate isn’t prepared to answer it. “Knowing your weaknesses shows that you are able to self-assess and recognize areas for improvement,” said Christine Salem, Aventure Branch Manager in Sioux City, Iowa.

Recruiters and interviewers are particularly interested in the steps you are taking or have taken to minimize the drawbacks of your weaknesses. It’s not necessarily about turning your weaknesses into a strength, a cliché phrase that is often overused and misunderstood; the “strength” here lies in your will and ability to overcome, and not the skills or aptitude you gain.

The Worst Greatest Weaknesses

Nearly every Aventure branch manager interviewed said that the worst way to answer this common interview question is with silence. “With this being such a common interview question, not having something to share does not make a good impression,” said Janet Roepke, Executive Recruiter in Sioux City, Iowa.

Also not a good sign? These answers:

  • “I don’t have any.” Nobody’s perfect, even if you are overqualified for the position. When you say this, you are actually saying, “I’m a little out of touch with reality.”
  • “I’m not sure.” This basically translates to “I’m both inexperienced at interviewing and I’m not ready to get this job.”
  • “I’m too organized.” Or any answer that doesn’t appear to have a downside. If you use it, you better be prepared to answer why always knowing where everything is has slowed you down or affected your performance. In this case, focusing on unimportant details, like color coordinating your highlighters, when you should be finishing your call sheet could be a real bummer.
  • “Attendance.” Just don’t.

Other answers that don’t cut it are ones that focus on your personal traits that cannot be changed. Being too tall or short, for instance, isn’t a weakness.

How to Own Your Greatest Weakness Like a Boss.

Now that you know what not to say, let’s talk about how you actually should respond. “Finding a true weakness is crucial to show employers that you are authentic and honest,” said Christine. “Also, faux weaknesses are easy to spot.”

That being said, she acknowledges that the question isn’t always an easy one to answer. “It can be tricky because one weakness may be a total deal breaker for one client or position, whereas another client could care less because of the nature of the job,” she added.

For instance, Kelsey Plueger, an Industrial Branch Manager in Sioux City, mentioned that the worst answer she received for this question was “interacting with others.” While this might make some interviewers gasp, this weakness may not be a red flag for position that works in relative isolation, like data-entry. To bolster this response, the candidate should articulate why they understand interpersonal skills to be important and the steps he or she has taken to work more cohesively with others.

Christine Salem offers a strategy that every interviewing candidate should keep in mind.

  • Pick two or four weaknesses that you truly have as well as the steps you have taken to combat them.
  • Be ready to list more than one.
  • Make sure to consider the industry, the position, and its duties.
  • Pay attention to the interviewer to be able to choose the most complementary weaknesses.

Sometimes things pop up in a job interview that may derail your answers or put your weaknesses at direct odds with the position. In this situation, you can do one of two things: either put your preparation and self-confidence to good use or come to the realization that the position may not be a good fit. Either way, your self-awareness will serve you well.

What is your greatest weakness?

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