The best answer to 'What's your greatest weakness?'

9/5/2018
 

It's one of the most dreaded questions in a job interview: "What are your biggest weaknesses?" But fortunately, there are some good ways to think about your answer.

In her weekly column for The Cut, "Ask a Boss," workplace advice writer Alison Green points out the importance of honestly answering the uncomfortable question and suggests a two-part process to analyzing and discussing your weaknesses in a job interview.

The first part is to properly reflect on and identify your weaknesses. From Green (emphasis ours):

"The best way to prepare is to spend some time thinking seriously about your weaker points as they relate to work. Think: What have you struggled with? What doesn't come naturally to you? What have managers encouraged you to work on in the past?"

The second step is to think about what you're doing to fix those weaknesses. Green writes (emphasis again ours):

"That's part one of your answer. Here's part two: What are you doing about it? You won't be able to include that in every case, but ideally you'd talk about what you've done to ameliorate the impact of the weakness on your work."

Green includes several examples of how one could use this framework to answer a job interview question about weaknesses in her column.

Green is not alone in advising job seekers to be honest about their weaknesses and to talk about what they've done to improve on them.

Ladders' Monica Torres suggested, similarly to Green, that "there's no one-size-fits-all answer for you to copy, but there is a basic formula for you to adapt to your needs: Acknowledge a real weakness, and then talk about what actions you're taking to overcome it."

And personal finance author and speaker Ramit Sethi gave similar advice on a 2016 episode of "The Tim Ferriss Show" podcast.

"When I'm asking about your weakness, what I really want to know is first of all, whether you're knowledgeable enough to acknowledge that you have a weakness," Sethi said. "Everybody has weaknesses. Top performers, the best people I know, they are so candid about their weaknesses."

What the interviewer is looking for is "that you are self-aware enough to be working on them to improve it."

 
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