What Should You Choose as Your Biggest Weakness?

One of the most dreaded questions during the interview, “Tell me your biggest weaknesses”, never fails to send shivers down the spine of even the most experienced person. Everybody who appears for the interview spends their first half of the time pondering upon the intentions of the interviewer- Does he want to know my real weaknesses? Should I be clever and camouflage my strengths? Wait, he asked for more than one… I didn’t prepare for this!

Contrary to whatever superficial story you decide to cook up in accordance to the predictions that you make about the intentions of the interviewer, the real purpose is quite simple- self realisation.

The interviewer needs assurance that the candidate that they are planning to hire is well versed with their strengths and weaknesses, and has a good idea about the areas that they lag in. The interviewer requires assurance from the candidate that active work will be put in to better their weak points.

However, in an attempt to convince the interviewer of their ability to out-do the job that is provided to them, people tend to exaggerate their lies and exasperate the interviewer. The three most common mistakes people make are:

  • It’s Actually Not a Flaw

“I’m a perfectionist. I have 0 work life balance because I spend all my time at work, working. Work is my life and I don’t want to do anything in my life but work.”

Interviewers see right through this. Remember, it is their job to choose the best candidate for the role, and to read people’s abilities and disabilities. It is their job to comprehend the candidate’s actual aptitude for the job. No matter what ‘negative’ you put forward to make the recruiter like you, they will always read through it and figure out 5 other things about you which you never thought you would convey.

  • Flaw? What’s That?

Blatantly refusing to have a flaw is one of the biggest mistakes that candidates commit during interviews. Not only does one come off as over-confident, the candidate also seems disrespectful. Why would one be appearing for another interview if they didn’t have any flaws? Why did you leave your old job? If you didn’t have a job before, don’t you lack experience?

  • The Flaw That Is Bang On

This is the kind of meat that the interviewers look for in the conversation. But instead of having to wait the entire conversation to decipher his real flaw, the candidate outrightly shines the spotlight on it. Consider a candidate being hired for finance — and imagine them telling the recruiter that they aren’t very well versed with MS Excel.

So what is really the right way to uncover a relevant, yet benefitting flaw?

  1. Choose a Good Weakness

To begin, make a list of flaws that you have. Out of the list, choose the best flaw. To choose the best flaw, check if they have these three qualities:

a. The Flaw Should Be Improvable

When you choose a flaw that you want to disclose in the interview, make sure that the flaw is something that is not so deeply integrated within you that it can’t be improved. Stay away from personality traits, such as the tendency to be lazy, and stick to more on-the-surface flaws that can be improved with work.

b. The Flaw Should Be Authentic

Interviewers have had enough of ‘perfectionists’ and ‘workaholics’. Choose a flaw that is personalized so that the interviewer feels as though you work hard on introspection and betterment of yourself.

c. The Flaw Should Be Relevant

To choose the best flaw, make sure that it is relevant to the interviewer, but not so relevant to the job. For instance, don’t tell the interviewer how terrible you are at cooking. But if you’re a person applying for a finance job, tell them about a flaw that doesn’t directly hinder your chances to perform at the job. Perhaps, tell them about how you’re not very good at public presentations, but you’re actively working on it so that you can become a more efficient employee.

2. Focus on How, Not What

Interviewers aren’t looking for the prettiest flaw in the lot — they know that everyone has their own internal impediment that might affect their work (any flaw will affect your work, regardless of how irrelevant you make it seem).

However, the entire point of the interview is to figure out your aptitude to make best of what you have. When you do uncover your flaw in front of the interviewer, make sure that you focus on how you’re planning to tackle the flaw, instead of how perfect or well thought out it is.

A flaw that is well thought out and well-presented has no meaning unless there is a follow up plan that shows a dedicated plan of action that tackles the same.

3. Don’t Depend on Your Learnt up Flaw

A few hours of research can help you find a flaw that’ll look good when you confess in the interview — but what do you do when the interviewer asks you for ‘a few of your weaknesses’?

Any candidate with the most vague idea of the interview will know of the typical questions that are asked — they’ll know the drill.

To counter the preparation of the candidates who know the drill, the interviewers intersperse questions that they know will throw the candidates off guard.

A candidate will prepare well for one flaw, maybe even a backup in case he forgets the first one. But what will he do when he’s asked for a few?

To keep the interviewers at bay, use one main flaw as your conversation starter. Find out the reason that flaw still persists, and you’ll have your supplementary, yet not-so-serious flaws. When the interviewer asks you about your flaw, tell him the main one. When he asks you about your few, put in the reasons as well. So you may be bad at public speaking, but you may be bad at public speaking because in your previous job, you missed out on networking since you didn’t deem it important. Later on, when you started opening up to people, you realized that public speaking and networking are things that you need to actively work on.

So, even though your main flaw is that you have bad presentation skills, you have a supplementary flaw of not networking. Your biggest flaw finally does spiral down to the public speaking part, because the interviewer understands that you worked on your supplementary flaw anyway.

When you prepare for this question, make sure that you keep the job profile, the relevance, and the solution in mind. A well thought out answer will ensure the interviewer’s attention and respect. The only way to get adequate attention and respect from the interviewer is to be to the point, authentic, and capable of change.

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