Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

“What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses?” How to Answer the Tough Interview Questions

You got the interview, and you’ve prepared yourself by researching the company, reviewing the job description, memorizing the names of the CEO and board, and can even spell the hiring manager’s name correctly. You’ve brought with you multiple copies of your error-free resume and references list, and your interview outfit is awesome. You are on top of the world, until you hear that one, inevitable question: "What are your biggest weaknesses?"

Interviewers always seem to ask this question with a smile, head tilted and pen poised in air waiting for your response. And even though practically every interview you’ve ever been on since you were 16 has asked you that same question, you still don’t have a quality answer. You could make your job search a lot easier if you just took the time and thought of a well-rounded, honest answer and used it each time, so what’s stopping you?

The "greatest weakness" interview question is difficult to answer because no one likes voluntarily making themselves vulnerable in front of a stranger. Besides your nerves about getting the job, admitting your weak spots is embarrassing, and can be hard to accept yourself, too. But this interview question isn’t meant as a core-shaking journey to self-discovery. Think of it as a chance to express your goals and where you’d like to improve yourself. It’s not about what you do wrong, it’s about where you can do better. This positive spin makes it easier for you to apply the question professionally, instead of viewing it as an attack on your personality or self-esteem. Pinpoint a couple of goals that you have for yourself and that are relevant to the workplace, like "I’m learning how to speak up more in meetings" or "I’m working on focusing more on details and not just on major concepts, which comes easier for me."

These very specific, personalized answers show the interviewer that you’ve honestly thought about your weaknesses and have made an effort to improve yourself. You’ll come across as sincere, conscientious, and responsible. Be prepared to demonstrate the ways in which you’re trying to achieve these goals, like shadowing friends and professionals you respect, attending a conference, or taking a class. Before every interview, take a few minutes to re-evaluate your goals and what you really would like to accomplish in your career. The more honest you are with yourself, the more positively you’ll come across in the interview, and as an added bonus, the more likely you’ll be to actually work on and achieve these goals.

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