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How to Answer: What's Your Biggest Weakness in a job Interview

April 30, 2021
Interview Series

Have you ever been asked in a job interview: "What is your greatest weakness?" Did your mind go blank and all you could come up with was: "I’m a perfectionist?" (or something along those lines). This is one of the most common and difficult interview questions employers ask during interviews.

Although it might sound like the ideal interview answer, it’s not.

I will tell you now, that without a great answer to this question, you are probably not getting that job. I’ve asked this question in every single interview I’ve held as a tech recruiter. Regardless of your experience level or field of expertise, this is a question which most interviewers will ask (and expect) an excellent answer to it.

Fortunately, there are ways to answer this interview question clearly, succinctly and prove your value as a job candidate and get a job you love!

In this blog post, we'll show you a step-by-step guide using the STAR Response method and share 2 incredible answers for students & experienced professionals to the dreaded question "What is your biggest weakness?" - which are not "perfectionism."

STEP #1: Understand what the interviewers want to hear

In job interviews, recruiters s ask the interview question "What is your greatest weakness?" as one of the behavioral-based interview questions to evaluate your honesty, competence and personality.

It's designed for you to recognize your greatest professional weakness and admit that you have areas you need to work on in your career.

Ultimately, you want to use this question to show how you used a weakness as motivation to learn a new skill or grow professionally. Everyone has weaknesses - your interviewer does not expect you to be perfect.

STEP 2: Understand the STAR method of answering interview questions

Fun Fact: What is the STAR Method? Since we’re talking about behavioral interview questions, the STAR method came into existence back in 1979 when a psychologist named Michael McCall developed it with Johns Hopkins University HR team.

The STAR method is a technique for structuring your responses to behavioral interview questions. It has been described as a "roadmap" that allows you to provide an organized story about your experiences. Using the STAR technique provides an impressive framework for telling a story that helps demonstrate your strengths in an interview. As a result, it can help you qualify for the job and move forward toward getting hired.

You start by organizing your experience by working through each letter of the acronym.

Situation: The Situation is where you put the scene and the context in. You should share who was involved, where it took place and when it happened.
Tasks: Next, the Task explains what you were asked to do or what your goal was.
Action: Then the Action focuses specifically on what you have done. This is your chance to emphasize your individual role, so try to use "I" instead of "we."
Results: Finally, round off the story with the Results. Describe what happened and why and what lessons you learned from it.

Let’s put it together. Here are 2 examples:

 

How to answer as a student interviewing for a Software Developer Internship:

First you need to identify a genuine weakness that isn’t a core skill to the job.

You don't want to respond with weaknesses that are core skills to the job you’re applying for.

For example, you don't want to say: "I'm not very good at math and struggling with numbers", if you’re applying for an internship as a software developer.

Now let’s use the STAR Respond Method to put it together:

Situation:  My greatest weakness is that I am a shy and nervous person by nature. I have a difficult time speaking up in groups, and when I have an idea that I think is a great solution, I often keep it to myself.

Tasks: Once, during my last internship, I proposed a project idea that my Team Lead shot down, and I did not protest. My supervisor heard about my idea. She was annoyed that I did not fight harder for it.

Action: I decided it was time to sign up for speaking classes but as a student these courses are quite expensive. So I went to the next best option: I found an amazing Career Coach Youtube channel that includes educational videos about communication & confidence.

Results: The next time I worked on a project, I stood by my ideas. I spoke up and asked my team lead to look again at what I had proposed. She agreed that my idea was quite good after reflection. My supervisor noticed the improvement and gave me an amazing recommendation when my internship was over.

 

How to answer as an Experienced Professional interviewing for a Software Developer Role.

Situation: My greatest weakness is my writing skills. I've always been a technical, mathematical person. I like crunching numbers, but when it comes to words, I forget the rules. Now that things have gone remote, I noticed that many of my long-distance communications have been misunderstood.

Task: When you launch a new product or service, there is a lot of communication between the team members and there are times when we don't meet deadlines and I have to pass concerns on to the team.

Action: I realized that some of my colleagues misunderstood my email communication and the last thing I wanted to do was be a bad leader or mentor.

Result: So I invested in a business coach who is actually CTO. It's been great - I'm learning new terms, communication hacks and how to become a better overall leader.

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Takeaway: We learn through failure

Everyone fails, even the leaders and influencers you look up to. There is valuable learning in failure. The question you should be asking yourself doesn't have to be, "What's your greatest weakness?" because chances are, the answer really isn't a weakness but an opportunity to learn and grow into a better version of yourself.

If you're looking for more interview tips, make sure to grab a free copy of our "Turn Job Interviews into Job Offers" eBook.

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