What is your biggest weakness?

Joe, Application Adviser

There are few interview questions which provoke the same mixture of fear and bewilderment as ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ The entire premise seems counter-intuitive. Aren’t you there to impress them? To show them your best qualities? Candidates who haven’t prepared for this question either panic, or assume that it’s some kind of trick. But, just like any other interview question, answering it is relatively straightforward if you know how.

There’s no single method to answering this question, and recruiters disagree as to the best approach. Some favour the classic ‘strength dressed up as a weakness’ method, while others see this as too transparent and not honest enough. As such, I’ll leave it up to you to decide what your weaknesses are (don’t choose more than two!), but remember that they should reflect on your professional aptitudes in some respect. The best strategy – in my opinion – is to be fairly honest, but ensure that these weaknesses are not too serious, and most importantly, that you’ve made an effort to rectify them.

interview

The structure to this answer is quite formulaic, and the answer itself needn’t be as long as for competency-based questions. Start by saying what your weakness is, then outline a situation in which it manifested itself, then say what you’re doing to improve it. Let’s take the example of perfectionism (which many would argue is a strength dressed up as a weakness!) Your answer could run as follows:

While I pride myself on my excellent attention to detail, sometimes I can be a bit of a perfectionist. On a couple of occasions in my current/previous job I struggled to finish a task on time because I wanted to get things absolutely right. I spoke to my manager about this and she told me that, while it’s great to have such a conscientious team member, more often than not it’s better to get the task finished on time, even if it’s not perfect. Following this, I enrolled myself on a time-management course / started to use time-management software / bought myself a book on time management and put the techniques I learned into practice. Since then I’ve found I’m less stressed when working to a tight deadline and am better at getting tasks finished promptly without obsessing over the detail.

If your first example is quite short, you can supplement it with another. But that’s really all there is to it!

Don’t forget to visit the Knowledge Bank on QMPlus for our top interview resources.

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