Doostang News April 26: Outmanning the Weakness Question

what-is-your-greatest-weaknessInvestment Banking Associate, San Francisco, CA
Market Research Associate, New York, NY
Sr Private Equity Analyst, Philadelphia, PA
Management Consultant, Washington, DC
Strategy Analyst, London, UK

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Dear Perfectionists,

Answering interview questions disingenuously is easy to spot. And refusal to address zingers that force you to take a cold, hard look at yourself may imply hubris. So lose the fear, do some self-evaluation, and learn how to conquer everyone’s favorite “Weakness” question.

Employers are looking for stand-outs in the interview process. Knock-em-deads who bring new ideas to the table and address problems with creativity and confidence. Hence, the individual who answers an interview question with a cliché fails on that count. What’s that archaic exchange? The classic: “What’s your greatest weakness?” “I’m a perfectionist!” Readers, it’s going to get you nowhere. Hiring managers have been around the block far too many times to swallow that one anymore, and in this job market, you cannot risk throwing away an interview question like that.

Similarly, don’t come back with the insufferable, “I don’t have any”. You are human…you are fallible. Any person that self-absorbed is going to have only him or herself to answer to at the end of the day, because they’re not going to get the job.

The going advice on this one nowadays is to be honest. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t navigate this question tactfully. But when an interviewer asks you for information, it is your sole duty during that meeting to provide it.

That said, focus on a weakness that won’t doom your chances of scoring a job in the first place. You don’t want to mention how you are chronically late, and often let important meetings slip your mind. You also don’t want to bring up that you find it near impossible to get along with others, and have been known to get into office altercations. And steer clear of mentioning weaknesses that are irreconcilable with the job you are applying for, i.e. bringing up that you are terrible with numbers when you are interviewing for a job at a bank.

Think of something to say that’s genuine, but find a way to turn that weakness into a positive experience. Perhaps you tend to take on too many projects at once, sometimes to the detriment of the quality of your work, but you have recently taken to using a daily planner to keep you on track. Maybe you are shy, but in the past few months you have been making a better effort to network and reach out to organizations, coming out on the other end with a little more confidence.

Everyone has weaknesses. And countless people excel in their career. So it’s clear that weaknesses aren’t going to render you useless when it comes to taking up a new position at a company – and employers know that. So give some thought to this question before you walk into your next interview, and answer gracefully and honestly. Because in the end, how you answer the question says a lot about who you are.

Yours truly,

The Doostang Team


  1. says

    I’ve always been a fan of providing an authentic weakness, but also stating how one is seeking to remediate those shortcomings.

    My own example: “I used to get feedback that sometimes, I was less organized than is ideal. I’ve begun using technology tools to remain on top of appointments and obligations to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t happen.”


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