Hi Jane,

You know how they ask ‘what is your greatest weakness?’ during an interview? Now, this is a cliché, tricky question and one is expected to respond to the question honestly. But let me be honest – I wouldn’t be satisfied with a scrappy answer that would only reinforce how much I need the job!

Moreover, I fear my answer may sound too blunt and honest. There are two things to know about me, 1) I happen to speak my mind, without thinking about the consequences, and 2) I tend to say the first thing that comes to my mind, especially when I’m in a situation where I have to give people feedback.

I’m ill-prepared for such a question. At the same time, I also do not want to sound false with something like this – ‘Oh, I’m too much of a perfectionist!’ Is there any best interview response to a question like ‘what is your biggest flaw?’

23 (F), marketing intern

Hi,

Looks like you’re someone who doesn’t like being caught between moral and ethical dilemmas of over-promising. Most interviewers expect candidates to reveal a noticeable and potentially detrimental struggle, and explain how the employee will mitigate the risks of the struggle.

Greatest Weakness

My advice – don’t give an automated response. Give your interviewer a story.

Here’s an example of what you could say –

  1. I used to be socially awkward person, which sometimes made it difficult for me to talk to people around me. I’ve made a lot of friends since then, and I’m constantly trying to think before I speak, so I won’t say nonsense.
  2. I don’t have a lot of leadership skills. I always try to follow and figure out the tasks ahead of me. I am quite good at being a high-contributing team member, and I always try to take a lead even if I find the task difficult.
  3. In the past, I have been a little too hesitant/prideful to ask for assistant. I don’t want to seem like a sloth or incompetent. At the same time, I don’t want to waste someone else’s time on a task that I have been delegated with.

Follow up with a plan on how you will work your greatest weakness. Be reasonable and at the same time, not to overly-humble.

Lastly, remember to slow down. Practice to make sure that your criticism of yourself are constructive and that you leave your hiring manager with solutions and options rather than just shut them down with a one-off answer. At the end of the day, they want to know what that one weakness you have is, and how you’re going to deal with it.

Q&A with Jane: The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at info@thehrdigest.com

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