Whenever we sit down with job candidates to discuss how they got on during a job interview with a client, they often say that the interview went well…except for one or two difficult questions that they didn’t know how to answer.

Starting today we will begin a blog series that deals with some of the toughest interview questions you will face, and show you how to answer them effectively. Each week we will examine a different interview question and demonstrate the key points to remember in delivering your best answer.

First up, perhaps the most feared question job candidates face…

What is your biggest weakness?

For many jobseekers, this is one of the toughest interview questions they will be asked. Everyone has some aspect of their skillset that needs improving and admitting that there is a certain area that you need to develop will not disqualify you from getting the job. However, you must tread carefully in the way you answer this question as there are certain types of answers that employers will find off-putting.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Tell the truth. The weakness must be real, but at the same time, it must not be related to a skill that is fundamental to the job. Cite a genuine weakness but make sure that it refers to a non-essential skill in terms of the job you are applying for. The weakness should be relatively minor and fixable. Explain how you have taken steps to improve this weakness, whether you have completed a short course through work, or taken some other steps to overcome it.
  2. Avoid sounding overly negative or critical. Discuss the weakness in terms of a temporary obstacle that can be overcome with practice. Another thing to avoid is couching a strength as a weakness, such as saying you work too hard, or you are a perfectionist. This kind of answer is too obvious and self-serving and an interviewer will see right through it. In choosing a real flaw you will be perceived as more genuine, trustworthy, and self-aware. It should also be a business-related weakness and not something personal. Focusing on how you have taken steps to overcome this problem will show how you are committed to addressing your weaknesses, which in itself will be viewed as a strength.
  3. No employer expects a flawless job candidate to walk in the door. Everyone that applies for the job will have areas they need to improve. By showing that you are willing to work to fix those weaknesses you are demonstrating a work ethic that will be looked on favourably by the employer.

In summary, we often see people struggle with the ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ question. The key, as with so much else in life, is preparation. If you carefully prepare your answer in advance, using our advice as a guide, you should be able to answer this question without difficulty. It may even prove to be the answer that sets you apart from the competition.

Collins McNicholas Recruitment has offices in Galway, Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Sligo and Athlone

Niall Murray

Managing Director

Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services