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Creating Successful Leaders

By Margaret Smith

“What is one of your weaknesses?” This is a question we’ve all been asked during interviews. It’s not an easy question to answer. But, because you know it’s coming, you can take the time to prepare a response that is graceful, honest, and effective.

Preparation is your key to handling this question in a way that boosts your impact during the interview. Sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you to come off as a more human, real person.

Joe Grimm of the Pynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest, and avoid mentioning character flaws because they seldom change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something such as, “I’m not as excel-savvy as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.” Never mention strengths as weaknesses.

As with everything, there’s a reasonable limit to the extent of your honest response to this difficult question. In an article about responding to the “weakness question” published in The Washington Post, Heidi McAllister, a local environmental educator who has hired dozens of professionals into government and nonprofit organizations explains that you should be honest, but don’t sabotage yourself. “No one realistically expects to get brutally honest answers like, ‘I’m below average intelligence and difficult to work with.’”

Even though this question may solicit the skewed truth, employers ask it because it helps reveal “whether applicants possess key qualities such as self-awareness, humility, sincerity, zest, and skill in managing shortcomings and mistakes,” says Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman.

Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Whiteman reminds us, the worst responses are “I don’t know” and the comical “I have no weaknesses.”

CareerBuilder, the popular job seeker’s resource, outlines this trying question as an opportunity for applicants to demonstrate that they “can think creatively.” Instead of giving a sterile and lifeless response, consider your weaknesses with an attention to “how you have attempted to overcome them,” then weave these proactive actions into your response.

As a final touch, cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Debra Yergen, author of “Creating Job Security Resource Guide”, recommends job seekers imagine themselves sitting on the other side of the desk. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story.

Do you have questions about developing your career, business, or landing the job of your dreams? Would your career benefit from informed advice about finding more customers and building a network that gives back? Contact UXL Today to transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.


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