There are thousands of articles trying to identify the toughest interview questions and decipher what the absolute best answers are. Some of these reigning questions are:
- How would you describe yourself in one word?
- Was there a time when you and a supervisor had a conflict, and how it was resolved?
- How do you handle stress?
- What is/are your greatest weakness(es)?
This last question is a game changer for the interview. We try so hard to present ourselves as positive, perfect applicants. This question is a challenge because it forces us to focus on something negative. Or does it?
What Employers Are Looking For
Why do employers ask this question? Employers are looking to put you on the spot and see how you handle the challenge. They are looking to see how you approach this negative topic. They are not looking for perfections, but rather they are looking for sincerity.
The overused approach has been to turn a weakness into a strength. For example, "I'm such a perfectionist that I can't move on to another project until it's done perfectly." This is a generic, cliche response that employers can see right through. So what are employers looking for? Another approach is honesty to a harmful level. Employers are looking for sincerity, but do you think they really want to hear that you do not work well with others?
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Do Your Homework
Don't walk into an interview unprepared. You are more than likely to be asked this question, and it's rather easy to prepare for. One tactic is to evaluate the job description, identify which skills would be unnecessary to complete the job responsibilities, and determine if it's something you struggle with.
If you're applying for a nursing job where you need excellent bedside manner and will be working primarily one-on-one with patients, you could answer that you struggle with public speaking and making presentations to large crowds. This is a sincere answer that will not affect your performance should the employer hire you.
The Best Answer To This Question
While the above tactic is sincere and proven to work, this doesn't tell an employer much about you and your qualifications. The best approach to this question is to identify something you struggled with in the past. Using a past weakness and describing how you improved will show employers that you are always looking for opportunities to grow and learn. This also shows employers that you're not afraid to answer honestly about your faults. Having integrity in the workplace is a strong bonus that employers will not ignore.
Here are a few examples of skills and how you can improve them:
- Communication: Practice role playing for active listening or using a script with a friend or family member. Take a speech or public speaking course at a local community college. Start writing on a daily basis whether it be in a journal or blog posts. Take an acting class.
- Leadership: Take on more projects at work. Start delegating work to others rather than taking on every single task. Read books about proven industry leaders.
- Time Management: Buy and use a daily planner. Plan your day ahead of time and leave notes reminding you of deadlines where you will quickly and easily see them. Reward yourself every time you get something done early.
- Selling: Take an online sales skills course. Practice role playing with a friend or family member. Do your research on how sales funnels work and create a sales pitch that reflects your personality and strengths. Confidence is key, so treat yourself to a new suit or business professional outfit.