You know it’s coming: At some point, a job interviewer will look you in the eye and ask about your biggest weakness.
The interviewer has heard them all before, of course. In a bid to keep things lively, he or she might frame the question in a different way, such as:
- What skill do you want to improve while in this role, if you’re hired?
- What’s your second-biggest weakness?
- What would your previous employer say about your weaknesses?
Yes, the question—in whatever form—is a total cliché, but you’d be surprised at how many people end up caught off-guard by it. They rack their brains, trying to figure out a response that won’t reveal too big of a character flaw. They get tongue-tied, and resort to the clichéd answers:
- I’m a perfectionist.
- I’m too detail-oriented.
- I’m a workaholic.
- I’m bad at public speaking.
For every clichéd answer, there’s also the candidate who decides to go for brutal honesty, and offers something that takes them utterly out of the running for the position. Pro tip: If you’re applying for a developer job, don’t suggest to the interviewer that coding has never been your strongest suit.
So how should you answer the question? Stick to professional weaknesses that won’t deep-six your job chances. If you have basic skills in a particular language or platform, say you want to become an expert but haven’t yet had the time to learn. If you’re aiming for a managerial role, focus on how you want to improve your ability to delegate.
The interviewer really wants to know if you’re self-aware of your flaws, and if you’re doing something proactive to adjust for them. If you are, it demonstrates that you can improve and adapt to circumstances—exactly the type of person who most companies want working for them.
And whatever you do, make sure to say you have a flaw of some sort. Everybody knows that nobody’s perfect.