How to Talk About Weaknesses in an Interview

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In an interview, you’re faced with many tough questions in a short time. But one of the hardest questions is regarding your personal weaknesses. While talking about your strengths is usually fairly straightforward, when you’re asked to talk about your weaknesses that question is a bit more difficult to field. You don’t want to come off as a weak candidate, but providing a trite or dishonest answer (such as “I don’t know”) could also turn off the interviewer.

List your professional weaknesses on a piece of paper before you attend the interview. Leave personal weakness out of the equation. Be honest with yourself when developing your list and rank them in order of bad to very bad. It’s usually best to stick with the weaknesses that aren’t so bad to launch a healthy, positive discussion.

Identify positive angles that you can use to turn these weaknesses into a positive discussion in your interview. For instance, if one of your weaknesses is that you like to have too much control over projects, a positive spin on that revelation is that you know how to take the reins of a project to get the job done.

Identify one or two of the weaknesses you listed if asked at the interview. Keep your comments brief and straight to the point. Prepare your answer for each weakness that you plan to discuss in advance of the meeting so that you don’t go off on a tangent or reveal too much when talking to the interviewer.

Follow up each weakness that you identify with a discussion of how you believe you can improve and ultimately benefit the company despite that issue. Clarify that you’re open for change and actively attempting to overcome these challenges. End the discussion of your weaknesses on a positive and optimistic note.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid bringing up weaknesses that directly conflict with the job position that you're seeking. For example, if you're applying to become a salesperson, avoid stating that you have a problem communicating with strangers. And as business author Ray Kurzweil states, "Don't reveal key weaknesses that interviewers wouldn't otherwise notice."

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