Googling the phrase “most common interview questions” will yield an abundance of Top 10, Top 50, etc., lists, and featured at the top of most is a frequently asked question that has been known to fluster even the most well-prepared interviewees: “Tell me about your greatest weakness.” Given that a job candidate’s role during an interview is to position himself/herself in the best possible light, it’s understandable that this question is challenging, since it basically requests the individual to do the opposite. However, understanding why this question is so commonly asked can help you craft a response that demonstrates why you’d be an asset to a potential employer.
According to an article recently published by Fortune, there are two primary reasons why interviewers ask this question. First, they are trying to figure out whether a possible new hire might fit in on an already existing team. Someone who shares a weakness that’s common among current employees may ultimately be less appealing than a candidate who feels they could use improvement in an area where the team is already strong. However, it is hard (if not impossible) to know the specific strengths and/or weaknesses of your prospective co-workers, and so it can be challenging to use this information to prepare a strong response ahead of time.
The second reason hiring managers make this query is to gauge the candidate’s self-awareness, and it is much easier to prepare answers that illustrate this quality. One recommended approach is to describe the steps you’ve taken/are currently taking to address challenges you’ve grappled with in the past. For example, you might discuss how, as a very diligent worker, you frequently found yourself staying late to make sure all of your tasks were done up to your standards; but, after taking a time management course you’ve figured out how to work more efficiently so you can be thorough while still maintaining work/life balance. Another might be to talk about a project you worked on that was very successful overall, and then pinpoint some areas that you’d focus on improving if you were to carry out a similar project in the future. Using either approach is a great way to showcase yourself as someone who is willing to take a critical look at themselves, and take steps to address what you've identified.
To read the full article on Fortune, click here, and for more on looking for work after cancer, check out the following resources from CAC: