I hate being put on the spot with tough interview questions – even ones that I could probably answer if given a chance to think about it without having someone stare at me impatiently for an answer. I shudder to think about the awkward silence and my mind racing for an answer that will satisfy the questioner.
There are lots of tough interview questions, we posted a whole list of them a couple months ago, along with how to respond to them. I realize that can get a little overwhelming trying to read all of those and develop a response.
So let’s key in on the one question that seems to come out in almost every interview: “What is your biggest weakness?” We’ve got four Do’s and Don’ts to share that will help you make most of this one big question.
Do: Have a Prepared Response
It’s perfectly ethical to think about and practice what you will say ahead of time. Most employers have a printed/prepared list ahead of time, so why wouldn’t be fair for you to at least have thought about and practiced a response?
Don’t: Look Blind-sided
Some people, when they hesitate to answer a question, can have a “I-didn’t-see-that-coming” look on their face and most interviewers can pick up on that. It’s okay to pause for a second or two so you can look like you are thoughtfully processing and formulating, but you don’t want to hesitate too long on it or they will see that preparation may be one of your real weaknesses.
Do: Think of a weakness that has very little to do with the job or is a strength in disguise.
Here are some examples:
Example of a weakness that has very little to do with the job:
“I am not a great public speaker. Getting up in front of audiences terrifies me. But I love talking with people one-on-one, so I guess it’s good that I chose dentistry as my profession.” (with a big smile)
Example of a weakness that is a strength in disguise:
“I’m a people pleaser to a fault. I tend to bend when someone isn’t happy about a situation to do everything I can to change that.”
“I am a dental hygiene workaholic. I eat, sleep and drink it and my spouse has to pull me away from the latest article I am reading or a time intensive volunteer project where I am teaching school children about hygiene.”
You don’t have to use these examples, there are plenty of others. One of my favorites (and it’s absolutely the truth) is that I am a perfectionist and honestly take too long making sure things I write, design or keep track of are without flaw.
Don’t: Cover For Yourself
Don’t include a “but” in what you share as it subtly weakens your statement. It’s an apology of sorts and you don’t need to apologize if you answer the question as outlined above.
For example, don’t say it like this:
“I’m very critical of the quality of my work. I feel it’s a statement of who I am and want everyone to know I am hard-working and team-player. But I promise I won’t let that get in the way of how things are done here.”
This statement is fine until the “but”.
Finally here are some weaknesses you most definitely don’t want to share. If they truly are weaknesses then you should be working to improve them and as long as you are doing that, in my mind, you can temporarily take them off your weakness list:
- Not very detail-oriented
- Argumentative or strong-willed
- Dealing with difficult people
- Always running behind or late
- ADD or distracted a lot
- Quiet (don’t say much or like to be alone)
- Too loud when I talk