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How to answer the interview question: "What's your biggest weakness?"

Farhan Raja, founder of Job Interviewology, offers his interview advice for marketing, advertising and creative professionals

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What’s your biggest weakness? It’s one of those questions that everyone dreads. An Interview is all about marketing your USPs and how you’d bring value to the organisation. This question is making you do the exact opposite! If there was ever a question that epitomises being stuck between a rock and a hard place, this is it.

The old cliché approach

A popular way around this question is to state a strength as a weakness instead, such as: "I work too hard" or "I’m sometimes too passionate". While these might seem like the perfect option, these types of responses tend to fall into the realm of interview clichés. Believe me - despite the interviewer being all smiles when listening to such a response, inside they’re desperately trying not to roll their eyes.

The correct mindset

Before we go into how to build a strong answer, it’s important to ask: "Why are they asking it?" From my experience, it’s firstly to see how you manage to navigate such a tricky question and think critically about yourself. Secondly, it’s to see your reaction. The interviewer wants to see if you panic, become nervous or get flustered. Regardless of how you answer, it’s paramount that you maintain the same level of confidence, poise and positivity as you would for any other question.

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How to successfully answer the question in a genuine, thoughtful and sincere way…without the clichés!

1. Write down a list of all your weaknesses. Be specific.
Instead of writing "lazy" write "slow to respond to emails". Once you have your list, it’s now time to think which weaknesses will have the least negative impact for the particular job you’re interviewing for.

2. Utilise empathy.

Example 1:

If you’re a social media marketer, a weakness you could talk about is the fact that you’re a little shy when it comes to public speaking. This weakness of yours has very little impact on the core skills that are required to do the job. At the same time, it offers a genuine weakness. In this instance, you make yourself relatable, so they can actually empathise with you in a positive way.

Example 2:

For a creative lead role, you could say you’re not the best when it comes to staying on top of your admin. Again, the weakness that I mentioned here isn’t something that’s going to reduce your ability to do the job well, because your core job is to develop creative ideas and marketing concepts, and not take care of the administration side of things.
No company is going to hire someone for a creative lead role who is fantastic at administrative tasks, but terrible at creative innovative marketing campaigns. Similarly, you wouldn’t be hired as a social media marketer if you’re terrible at utilising social media but are a fantastic public speaker.

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3. Explain how you’ve identified your weakness and how you’re working on it.

For a social media marketer role you could say:

"It’s something I’m aware of and I’ve been practising a range of visualisation techniques prior to going into meetings. This has given me a lot of confidence and I’ve actually improved significantly over the last year".

For a creative lead role, you could say:

"I’ve been working on it and I realise the value of getting it right. I’ve learnt that if I stay on top of it, it will free up more of my time to focus on developing new concepts and ideas".

To recap:

  • Ensure you speak with the same level of confidence you’ve shown with the other questions
  • Make a list of weaknesses and focus on specifics rather than general things
  • Use the weakness in your list which has the least negative impact for the role that you’re interviewing for
  • Mention that it is something you’re aware of, followed by what you’re doing to improve on that weakness.

Job Interviewology provides specialist one-to-one interview coaching, courses and careers-related services. Whether you are an experienced marketing, media or creative professional, or a graduate, interview coaching can help you become the strongest version of yourself and empower you to achieve your career goals and ambitions.

For a free 20-minute interview consultation with one of our experts at JobInterviewology.com please complete this simple form:

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