“Tell me about your biggest weakness,” I recently asked a job-seeking client in a practice interview to help her prepare for her upcoming job interview for an administrative position. She smiled confidently, and gave me a predictable answer, one often heard from job seekers and which I call “the perfectionist answer”: “When I am given a task, I work very hard at getting it completed, and will not stop until it is perfectly done.” “So,” I said, taking a devil’s advocate role, “are you saying that you get really stressed out about it and that you compromise all other work to get it done?” She straightened up uncomfortably, looked me in the eye, and answered “No. Of course not! I always make sure all my work gets done.” “So, how then, is it a weakness? I would love to hire someone who sets high standards for themselves.“, I challenged her gently. Looking confused and mildly annoyed, she struggled to answer my challenge satisfactorily, eventually looking at me imploringly, “What do I say, then? What do I say that won’t make me look bad?”
How do I respond to the question at the interview that requests that I explain my weaknesses or what I would like to change about myself at work? This is by far the hardest question that I have been asked at the job interview.
Signed: The Weakness Question (WQ)
I love the piece written by blogger Aja Frost from an excellent career blog called The Muse (although I beg to disagree with her about the intent behind the question — I do think it’s often meant as a trick question). Regardless, you need to be prepared to respond in job interview in a way that presents what we might call “your best self” yet demonstrates that you are open to learn and improve, as well as able to accept feedback and criticism with self-awareness.