One of the most dreaded questions during an interview is “What is your biggest weakness?”
Sometimes, this is also couched as “What would your boss say is an area you have to improve on”
Whatever the phrasing, it’s a tough question to tackle.
Most candidates do much harm to their image by answering this wrongly.
First, why is this question asked?
- Self-awareness – interviewers are looking to see if you are aware of the things that you are good at and the things you are bad at. This self-awareness can often be the difference between a rational business decision that generates revenue or a rash decision.
- Honesty – things won’t always go well, and mistakes will be made during the course of work. During such occasions, can you own up to your mistake and put things right?
- Growth mindset – Are you genuinely trying to identify your weaknesses and work on them in order to grow in your career? Or are you held back by self-limiting beliefs?
How to tackle this question?
We can use the WAR framework to tackle the weakness question.
- Pick a work related issue that you have been actively working on to improve
- Describe how it affected your career in the initial stages
- Once you acknowledge the weakness, state 1-2 things you did to overcome it
- The actions need to be clear with some sort of feedback loop built into them
- Showcase the improvements you have made over the years
- Talk about what specific result you got from your actions
Example: Weakness – Overcoming cultural barriers
“I’ve struggled in the past with overcoming cultural barriers at work. Especially in MNCs, I found it difficult to connect with and convince my cross-functional team members from the US, France, and the Middle East. This slowed down my project completion timelines and caused unintended friction within the team.
To solve this problem, I approached a senior colleague who had built great multicultural relationships at work. I spoke with him about my issue and asked for his advice. Over a period of a few weeks, under his mentorship, I began to improve my relations with my cross-functional team.
Eventually, our team started working together like a well-oiled machine, and we turned around several key projects on time and under budget, even being recognized by the regional marketing director for our efforts.”
Remember, the weakness question is not easy.
You have to wage WAR on it.