“So, what would you say is your biggest weakness?”
This is probably one of the questions most dreaded by job applicants during an interview. Many people hold the general belief that interviews are only about showcasing how our professional strengths and competencies would make us an ideal fit for a position. The truth is, inquiring about someone’s weakness serves an important purpose: It enables the interviewer to glean key information about a candidate, based on how he or she answers the question.
For cancer survivors, such questions can provoke anxiety, since they may not be feeling particularly confident to begin with, and because maintaining one’s privacy during an interview can be paramount. Thankfully, there are helpful strategies for navigating this situation, including the three listed below, which appear in an article on The Job Network website. Reviewing them before you meet with a potential employer gives you the opportunity to prepare a genuine and empowered response to to a challenging question.
1. Spin it as a growth experience: “I’m a perfectionist” is a common response to the “weakness” question, but it is vague and not very authentic. Who wouldn’t want to be perfect?! Instead, take this opportunity to tell a story about a skill that is not necessarily your strong suit, but be sure to highlight how you took (or are taking) steps to become better at that skill. This gives you a chance to show how you deal with your perceived weaknesses, which indicates that you are reflective and pro-active.
The Swivel is another helpful tool to employ when you find yourself in this situation. It lets you acknowledge a difficult question and then redirect the conversation to a more positive topic, such as your enthusiasm for the position. Whether you use it to redirect the interview after the “biggest weakness” question or to answer questions about gaps on your resume (due to health issues), The Swivel is an effective technique to know.
2. Use it to show you’re not perfect (which is okay!): Everyone has weaknesses — and hiring managers are aware of this fact. Still, a healthy dose of both confidence and humility is key. Prepare for this interview question by being honest with yourself about your weakness(es) and then determine how you can frame it in a positive light. A handy resource for this is our Job Search Toolkit (2nd Edition), which contains an entire section on all aspects of the interview process, including Interviewing Methods & Tips and Mock Interview guidelines. Again, interview prep is critical!
3. Explain that you are always fine-tuning: An ability to demonstrate a high level of self-awareness and improvement is the primary objective when responding to the “weakness” question. If you can show that you take time to assess your weaknesses and effectively turn them into strengths, you have the qualities employers value. They want someone who is constantly pushing themselves to learn and grow professionally.
If you have a specific question about an upcoming interview or want advice on how to make a career change, post it to our Ask a Career Coach board. One of our professional coaches will respond.
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