“What’s your biggest weakness?” This is almost a throwaway question — most interviewers expect cookie-cutter answers that they pay little attention to. Some wonder why interviewers even ask this question.
However, modern interview advice is full of recommendations for how interviewees should answer this question, so perhaps it’s time for recruiters to pay more attention to the answers.
The truth is, no one really cares which weaknesses candidates pick — that’s not the point. Only one thing matters: it’s not what they say; it’s how they say it.
When evaluating interviewee answers, here’s what to look for:
Listen for something interesting that sets a candidate apart. An interviewee who offers a flat, robotic answer is less likely to work out than someone with a dynamic response. The key is all about the spin the candidate offers. Does he or she turn the question around and eventually point out strengths? Does he or she find a way to turn it into a humble brag moment? Does he or she weave a personal tale about overcoming a difficult situation? These are all ways in which candidates unashamedly show their personalities.
The Ability to Think Outside the Box
“I’m a perfectionist.” Yawn! This is the most boring and cliché answer to the weakness question — a sure sign the candidate did little interview prep. When a candidate can think of a cool answer that sparks a conversation, he or she is on the way to landing in your “yes” pile of resumes. A surprise answer that makes you think shows that the candidate can take advantage of a boring question.
Many interviewees don’t know that the best way to answer this question is with an explanation. Watch for candidates who list their weaknesses then explain how they are working to overcome them. This shows they don’t just accept their shortcomings but seek improvement. They have plans and aren’t afraid to share them. For example: “My biggest weakness is a fear of public speaking, but since I know it’s important to my career, I’m taking a public speaking course and making a point to speak up at least once in every group meeting I attend.” Now that’s the kind of answer you want to hear. The candidate has named a weakness and is taking action.
Don’t worry too much about the particular weaknesses interviewees mention if that trait isn’t an absolute must for the position. You can learn plenty just by analyzing how they formulate answers. Consider what their responses say about their personalities. This will help you evaluate whether they’ll fit and whether they can go beyond lame answers and impress you with unique, meaningful insight.
Author: Alisiana Peters
Alisiana is a senior marketing coordinator at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.