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How to be stronger when answering about your weaknesses

The age old interview question of “what is your weakness” or “what do you see as being your weaknesses” can be daunting? This question has most likely been posed in all, if not most, interviews that you have been to. Yet, why do most people struggle to answer it and feel good about their response?

The majority of candidates struggle with this question, as they see it as a negative question. The first step is take away the negative feeling around the term “weakness”. The reason for the question is to establish whether you are aware of your personal /Professional development and what you need to do to be stronger in that area.

This is not a negative question, it is a query based on your own progression, success, and future achievements so your mental attitude toward the questions should be around building yourself up not destroying your confidence or abilities.

Secondly, the term, “weakness” is a feeling and is not quantifiable. Your idea of weakness and the interviewer’s could be completely different, exactly the same with other feelings such as happiness, sadness and pain – none of which are quantifiable and our interpretations vary largely.

Where most people usually fall down is when they answer the question with their interpretation of weakness in a particular area. However, how do you know that your experience in a subject that you see as a weakness is not a strength in the eyes of the interviewer?

You don’t.

Change the question to something like “what areas do I want to improve in?”, “what could I change to make me better than I am?” or “what areas if I knew more in, would add value to me?”- These examples are not exhaustive so pick your style of question.

Once the question is rephrased, look at the following equation to help with your response.

Subject + Experience + Action = Weakness answer (areas I want to improve in)

Subject

What is the area that you want improve on to achieve your goals? It could be a personality trait such as organization, it could be a particular subject such as cold calling or even a more specific such a particular technology or qualification.

Experience

Once you have picked your subject, you now need to cover what you have done on that subject already, labeling any key achievements. Alternatively, if you have had experience in the subject, you need to draw from previously relatable experience and link it to the subject matter.

Action

Now that you have highlighted the subject and your experience to date on the area, you need to explain what you have planned or what you want to achieve in the subject so as to make your experience stronger.

Whereas with experience, if they asked a question, it will be relatively easy to answer because you are talking about what you have already achieved so it will be memorable.

With the action element, you need to have done your research so when you are asked WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, and HOW, you are able to answer showing that you have taken your personal development seriously. It could be as simple as knowing what courses you need to complete to get the certification that you want, how much it costs to complete the course, how long it usually takes to pass the course and what it will give you in added value.

Summary

To summarize, re-phrase the question and then tackle the question with subject, experience and action.

By doing this, you are not assuming that you and the interviewer’s interpretation on weakness is the same, as it allows them to have enough information to make their mind up on whether it is, in fact, a weakness or a positive in disguise.

Second to this, it shows to the potential employer that you are able to complete a self-assessment on areas that you want to improve on as to achieve your goals, and the ability to create actions so you can get there.

At least this way your new employer already knows how they can help you achieve your goals moving forward!

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