What are your Weaknesses?

by Ashley Crace, Head Editor, INALJ West Virginia

What are your Weaknesses?

AshleyCraceWhen I practiced for job interviews, I used notecards with common interview questions, gathered from varied sources.  I started doing this on recommendation from a friend and it worked well for me.  I felt more prepared and articulate in the actual interview.

One of my answers just never seemed right, though I practiced it many times.  It was my answer to the question, “What are your weaknesses?”.  This question typically follows, “What are your strengths?” which I found to be much less ambiguous.

It is easy for us to highlight our strengths based on skills and experience that we have as they relate to a specific position.  The “What are your weaknesses?” question, however is more complex.  I asked myself, do I really want to point out my weaknesses to a potential employer?  The answer is probably, no.  But, I also want to be honest and present myself accurately.   If the potential employer were to hire me, they would eventually find out the areas in which I lack experience, skill, or knowledge.

So, I started by asking myself “What are my weaknesses?”  I wanted to figure out in what areas I needed improvement.  By doing this, I was able to take action and work on improving those areas.  This could be done through a volunteer position, an internship, independent study, webinars, courses, or any other way I could find to work on a particular area.

I have always disliked the strategy of answering the question by taking a weakness and turning it into strength. For example, you could say, “I am just too organized.” or “I tend to take on too much.”.  Personally, I think the cat is out of the bag on that answer; your potential employer has most likely used the same strategy or heard it many times.

So, what I finally came up with as a suitable answer was honesty.  Since I had actually identified my weaknesses and taken action to improve on those areas, I felt this provided me with a perfect answer to this complex question.  So, when asked, “What are your weaknesses?” I would answer something like this, “Having realized that I lacked collection development experience, I worked on a project during my internship to weed a VHS collection and help make decisions about whether or not the materials should be replaced by ordering the item in DVD format. While I still have a ways to go in learning about collection development, I feel that this experience, coupled with my education, has given me a good foundation to improve upon.”   Here is another example: “I have never felt confident with public speaking.  Because of this, I joined a Toastmaster’s group and have been working on this skill.  I still have work to do to improve my confidence in public speaking, but have definitely made headway.”

I think that the most important thing to remember is that you must feel comfortable and confident with your answers.  It is important to explore different answers to find the best way for you to answer a question.  This idea may work well for you, too!

  3 comments for “What are your Weaknesses?

  1. Karin Wikoff
    August 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    P.S. Great advice from Ashley, BTW!

  2. Karin Wikoff
    August 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I hate that question and do not ask it when I am interviewing candidates. I mean — seriously — does it tell me anything I really need to know? No — it just makes candidates miserable and uncomfortable. If I were the interviewee, I might be thinking — do I really want to work for someone who plays dirty games like that?

    I was recently asked that question in a reference I was giving for a former co-worker. I really had to wrack my brains for what to say. In the end, I said her weakness is that she speaks her mind plainly without hesitation, but I would only consider that a weakness if an employer doesn’t value honesty.

    She got the job.

    I still hate that question.

  3. amidnightdreary
    August 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Awesome! Thank you! I’m preparing for an interview next week and while reviewing questions this one kept stumping me!

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