Don’t be tripped up when you don’t expect to be asked to “Name a Weakness”. Prepare a thoughtful answer that meets the interviewer’s need for information without blurting out a hasty answer.
This question can be very stressful if you are not expecting it. But the preparation we’ll describe can actually make you welcome the question.
I’ll point out a few things to avoid and direct you to some valuable resources that can help you understand your weaknesses in a new light.
What You Shouldn’t do when asked to “Name a Weakness”
Are you tempted to say “I’m Just too conscientious and dependable”? In the past, job seekers were encouraged to reframe a virtue as a weakness by claiming to have it in excess. If it ever worked, today it’s likely to be seen for what it is.
Assume your interviewer is too sophisticated to accept that strategy. They will write something down on the paper, but you won’t like it.
As tempting as it may be to suggest you don’t have any weaknesses, all that’s going to do is leave a blank spot on the page where the interviewer intended to make notes.
Your objective is to dispel the interviewer’s concern that you have a significant weakness that will show up later and sabotage your success. It’s costly to hire staff and everyone wants to avoid hiring mistakes. If your answer reassures them, it has done its job.
The interviewer knows that we all have weaknesses. As we’ll see in a moment, every personality type has strengths along with characteristics that can be weaknesses in some environments. Acknowledge that simple fact and relax.
Watch out for the Deadly Trap!
Some interviewers may try to lure you into disclosing something serious. Catching you unprepared or by wording the question differently can trick you into saying whatever comes into your mind. The more prepared you are the less likely you are to fall victim.
Very typically, the first question is name a few strengths. If you respond to that one on the fly, you might be a little stressed. That can leave you less able to think clearly about the name a weakness request.
A Weakness is Not (Necessarily) a Character Flaw
Understand that not every weakness is a character flaw. Dishonesty isn’t characteristic of any personality type. It’s really a coping mechanism that some of us develop to deal with life. But if you resort to dishonesty whenever you get into a jam, after a while you don’t even notice.
It’s important to understand that not every weakness would be a deal breaker in every work environment, so it’s worth spending the time to understand where your personality fits and why. It’s also important to know the culture of the company where you’re being interviewed, even to the particular department.
Whatever you’re revealing, communicate that it won’t affect your performance in this position, because you recognize the tendency and have learned how to minimize its negative impact.
Again, as is the case with many job interview questions, planning ahead reduces the risk that you’ll provide a damaging answer. Those who pride themselves in their ability to think on their feet may see all this as being a great deal of work. It is, but the employment marketplace has never been more demanding. Assume that at least one other applicants will prepare carefully and deliver excellent answers.
Your First Assignment: Know Yourself
Learning about your personality can be uncomfortable, but trust that it’s not hidden to your colleagues.
If you’ve never taken a personality test such as Myers-Briggs assessment, I encourage you to learn more about your temperament. If your explanations about weaknesses are rooted in an understanding of your personality, they gain credibility.
There are many personality tests, but they all have four broad types. Each one has strengths with accompanying weaknesses. Expect that much of what you learn will improve your explanations of your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
As an example, the Artisan is one of the four broad personality types you’ll discover at Keirsey.com where you can take their free test. Impulsiveness, poor follow-through and dislike of regulations predict extremely poor performance in some kinds of work such as accounting.
On the other hand, if you have the Guardian personality type, you really like order and rules, it sounds like you’d make a great accountant. In fact however actually functioning within an organization means that you need to deal with constant change.
If you haven’t done so yet, visit keirsey.com and learn about your temperament and other types as well. It won’t just help you prepare for responding to the “Name a Weakness” job interview question.
Understanding the types and how they predictably conflict with each other. You’ll also be able to work more effectively with a variety of personalities in the workplace and elsewhere.
In sales, it’s always important to know the product that you are selling, including it’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the competitor’s offerings. The product that you are selling is yourself. So learn as much about yourself as you can and prepare to put your best foot forward in your next job interview.
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It’s worth preparing thoroughly for every interview question well in advance of the interview.
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