How to Communicate Your Weaknesses

There will come a time in everyone’s career (or life in general) when a person is asked to identify their primary weaknesses. It is also a very common interview question, and a tough one to answer because there are no “great” responses. If you are not ready for this question, it can be very awkward and the answer may not come across in a good way. Learn how to identify and understand your weaknesses and how to properly communicate them to others.

Part 1 of 3: Practice Self-Awareness
1. Understand the question. When you’re asked about your weaknesses, especially in an interview, it’s usually not the weakness that’s the most important thing. It’s whether you are aware of your weaknesses and what you do about them. If the answer is “I don’t have any," then it becomes obvious that the primary weakness is a lack of self-awareness. Also, it's important to understand that being aware of weaknesses is not the same as being weak. Knowing about and compensating for your weakness is in fact a very important strength.
2. Be prepared. You should regularly examine yourself to identify your primary weaknesses. If you don’t know what they are, you can’t communicate them to others. If you already know the answer, you won’t have to fumble and you will have considerably greater esteem in the eyes of the interviewer.
3. Analyze your weaknesses regularly. As indicated above, this is not a one-time shot. You should do this exercise on a somewhat regular basis. Start with a 3-month recurring cycle and if that’s too often, drop it down to once every 6 months.
4. Be honest but strategic. Saying "I'm a perfectionist, and I hold people too accountable" when you're not, and you don't, isn't a good idea. When someone asks you about your weaknesses, be honest. Tell the truth. At the same time, learn how to massage the truth to put your best foot forward. (This is called "public relations.") This will help you present yourself as a better-rounded candidate.

Part 2 of 3: Communicating Weaknesses in an Interview
1. Give the interviewer an actual weakness. Twisting your answer to make it seem like your primary weakness is that you’re already perfect will always fail. “My greatest weakness is that I’m too much of a perfectionist" would make the interviewer think you live in denial of yourself. If this is truly an area you struggle in, make your answer honest and relatable to the interviewer with a response such as, “I sometimes over-analyze my work products which can cause me to fall behind in other tasks.”
2. Be clear and concise. Don’t overstate things or ramble. The interviewer is looking for something very specific in this question.
3. Immediately follow with a proactive solution. You’ve clearly identified your weakness, stated it concisely and shown that you have good awareness of your personal issues. You can now show them what you are doing to work on this problem.
4. Stop and wait. After you answer the question, stop talking. Wait for the interviewer to speak next. You’re done. You’ve given them what they asked for, so wait for a response. You might have to wait an uncomfortable amount of time.
5. Be prepared for the interviewer to pry further. You should have three weaknesses and compensatory techniques at your fingertips. The interviewer is quite likely to ask you the same question a second time and often a third time.

Part 3 of 3: Sample Responses
1. "I don't take initiative as much as I'd like." Employers generally like people who take initiative. For one, they don't have to babysit you while you sit back and wait for tasks to be given to you. Second, it means that you're constantly thinking about how you can add value to the company. Here's how you might approach this weakness.
2. "I don't always manage my time effectively." Managing your time is crucial to employers. They're looking for someone who can ideally do the most amount of work in the least amount of time. You really want to hit this answer out of the park if you choose it. At the same time, a lot of people are bad time-managers, so don't expect to tell the interviewer anything s/he hasn't heard before.
3. "I take on a leadership role when it's not designated to me." This weakness is the polar opposite of weakness #1, failing to take initiative. Employers might be nervous about you stepping on your bosses toes.
4. "I talk too much." Certainly, this isn't a weakness that you can profitably use if you're introverted, laconic, and shy. In other words, make sure you are who you say you are. Employers will want someone who is focused on work, not on telling jokes or learning about each and every coworker's weekend.
5. "I'm not great at public speaking." This one is kind of a "spin" response, because for most positions, you're not going to be expected to speak in front of large audiences. But this response could actually be a sympathetic weakness: some people have a soft spot for verbal fumblers. Again, focus on drawing out some positive aspect of your phobia if you plan on using this weakness.
6. "I'm not as organized as I could be." Certain professions, such as accountant or office assistant, really depend on consistent organization. If you're interviewing for such a position, think twice about giving this response. On the other hand, many professions, especially "ideas" professions, don't rely on expert organization to get the job done.


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