Interviewing is an art and the more you practice, the better you get. As you start to interview with employers for spring or summer internships, remember to consider doing a mock interview with your counselor in the CDO. Bidding for our Spring Mock Interview Program is going on right now (via the "recruiting" tab in Symplicity), however, students can schedule a mock with the counselor throughout the year.
In the spirit of interview season, we bring you this great article on how to answer the "what is your greatest weakness" question written by Breda Hegarty, Pre-Employment Trainer in Business in the Community Ireland, supporting people with barriers to gain employment and author of the blog www.thejobmotivator.com.
When I am preparing people for interview one of the most common questions they want to know the answer to is “What is your greatest weakness?” This is a question that many people dread and hope that the employer just won’t ask, however in order to deal with this question in the best way it is much better to be prepared. This question is not supposed to be an ambush, however if we answer it incorrectly we can end up trapping ourselves. Before the interview it is always a good idea to imagine what could be the toughest questions they could ask and then prepare for them.
Think about why the employer is asking this question. Take note that the key reason why an employer asks this question is to see if you are self aware. Once you are aware of your weakness then you have to power to be able to improve it.
Firstly the Don’ts
Don’t try to turn your weakness into a positive e.g. "I am a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”
The employer will not think that you are a genius for coming up with such a clever answer. An HR manager from a large transport firm that I met with recently said that he hates when people give this answer as he knows it is learned off and untrue and it then makes him doubt the validity of every other answer.
Don’t say that you don’t have any weaknesses. This can sound quite arrogant and shows a lack of self awareness.
Don’t say anything that will negatively affect your chances of getting the job e.g. “I can be lazy at times” “I have trouble getting up in the mornings” “I get annoyed with difficult customers” “ I don’t like it if my boss is too pushy”.
Anything that can majorly affect our ability to carry out the role or deal with colleagues, management and customers in a positive way will lead the employer to hire someone else.
Answer this question as if it has been asked in this way: “If you could improve one aspect of yourself what would that be and how are you currently working on it?”
Be honest but not too honest. Try to find an area that you are trying to improve but if it is a major part of the role then come up with a different answer, for example a teacher couldn't give the answer that they dislike public speaking, however this could be a fine answer for a computer programmer, or when applying for an administration job, you could mention that your weakness is taking a leadership role, as you are not likely to have to do this as part of your role. However it would be a poor choice to mention that you are disorganized or have poor typing skills as they are usually required for the role.
When answering the question follow this formula: start by talking about what your good at then, mention something that you would like to improve, and finally mention how you are improving it.
Focus more on what you are doing to improve this weakness and how you improved it in the past rather than on the weakness itself.
“I am a very thorough, meticulous and careful person, sometimes it can take me a long time to make decisions, I need to weigh up all the options and pour over the details before making a decision. I am trying to get better at working out what decisions should be made quickly and which ones require more time”
“I can be very persistent and determined so if there is a problem or something I can’t figure out, I tend to stay focused on it until I overcome it. This can take a lot of my time away from other tasks. I am trying to get better at asking my co-workers for advice or help with something if I am stuck on it for a while, as I know in the long run that this will be more efficient and beneficial”