Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 24, 2018

What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

A job interview can be as close to legal torture in the 21st century that hopefully any of us will ever get.

We’d rather have our pointless appendices’ removed than sit opposite someone who has the power to decide if we’re going to get any money in our bank account and feel like a useful member of society. No pressure then.

So if it’s not bad enough that you spent hours agonizing over the perfect outfit, checking the location (a hundred times) and reorganizing your CV for the 50th time you know at some stage you’re going to feel like you are facing the Spanish Inquisition or feel like you are 7 years old in front of the head master (who can reduce you to a blubbering wreck just by saying your first name.)

How are you supposed to perform well in an environment like that?

How are you supposed to showcase that you are the perfect candidate for the job when you can’t think of one clever thing to say?

And how are you supposed to get around the random questions companies insist on asking, like asking about your weaknesses in a job interview?

Let’s look at how to deal with those tricky questions that can leave you feeling stumped and like you have no chance of getting the job in ways that doesn’t require you to reinvent yourself.

Before you get in there

Who are they?

    It’s not rocket science to know that if you want a job you should do your research on that company:

    • What matters to them?
    • What is their brand like?
    • What does their website look like?
    • Does it talk about individuals, mission statements, ethos, values or charitable work?
    • How do they present themselves?

    Taking the time to learn about the company you are going to aim to work for means that whatever question that comes up you have in your head (hopefully if you actually took notes and really thought about the company) what they want to know and what floats their boat, i.e. you know who they want to work with.

    While anyone can (in theory) work anywhere, we all fit in some places better than others. Some will tell you it’s good to be able to change who you are; however eventually that can get physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and that’s no good for long term success.

    Knowing who you are looking to work with means you can find out if you actually want the job too and if you don’t it helps you assess what matters to you in your career.

    Who am I?

      Turn on the TV, phone or laptop and just by watching an advert, you can work out what they are selling, what age it’s intended for, what kind of person it’s aimed at and even where their ideal demographic likes to eat or travel to.

      None of that is by accident.

      A strong brand attracts the right people. And just like organisations want to attract the right customers they also want to attract the right staff. Therefore before you even get to the interview really take the time to answer the questions above on yourself:

      • What matters to you?
      • What is your brand like?
      • What do you look like online?
      • What is your mission statement, ethos, values and charitable interests?

      Let who you are exude through every question you are asked. This also enables you to appreciate why you would really like to work for this company.

      Advertising

      You’ve taken the time to assess if their values, beliefs, products, etc match up to what you want and that helps you to connect regardless of whether you get an answer wrong or not.

      This also means you have prepared some of the things that you want from that organization too. Are you looking to stay in that job for the rest of your life? Are you looking to learn new skills? Are you looking to be a part of a bigger team? Are you looking to take on the big challenges that face society?

      Knowing this information can really help because interviews are not just about being asked questions it is about the ability to ask effective well thought questions too.

      Practice, practice practice

        Interview skills is a bit like any communication skill especially public speaking; you need to consider what you want to get out of this communication and they want to get out of this communication too.

        To do this, it is about having the right skills and the right mindset. Like public speaking or any communication where you have a vested interested, an interview’s results can be damaged by not ensuring you look after both the mindset and skill set.

        For instance, you could have an awesome positive attitude; however if you’ve not done your research and physically prepared accordingly, you could still fail. Likewise, if you have all the right skills but lack the right mindset, again you could fail. To get around this you need to be prepared mentally.

        This works well for big moments in life too. Really visualize walking away from the venue, secretly grinning from ear to ear because you got exactly the result you wanted, i.e.:

        • How do you feel?
        • What was said?
        • What is going to happen next?
        • What are you wearing?
        • Where are you?

        Craft the result in your head in every detail.

        Why is this so important? Because in life, we can’t always plan for what is going to happen however we can be determined to get the result we want. And by being determined, we can ensure we keep heading in the right direction. Essential for interviews where you don’t actually know what is going to be asked of you.

        In the room

        How you act

          I’m very aware that so far I’ve not told you what to say to those difficult questions that really throw you and that’s because if you get everything else right, those questions (and their answers) become less important because overall you’ve still had the chance to shine and impress.

          When you walk in that room, you want to look like you should be there (and are pleased to be there) but not like you own the town. Arrogance can cost you the job and there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

          Make eye contact. Are you the kind of person that can get served first in a packed bar? Then it’s a good chance you’ve sussed eye contact. Eye contact is not just about the eyes, it’s about your body too. How do you stand? With confidence?

          Do you look like a bunny trapped in the headlights of a car? Or happy to be here?

          This works on two levels, first it makes you look confident and secondly, it makes the other people in the room feel more comfortable. Try changing the way you sit and act in a room and watch how those around you can change too. We feed off other people.

          How you breathe and speak

          Advertising

            A space in a sentence is not the same as an “Um” pause. Know the difference. One has confidence the other is feeling out of their depth.

            Practice lots of kinds of questions and practice out loud your replies. As someone that has helped a lot of people become successful public speakers, I know the importance of breathing for you and your audience.

            So practice, because where and how you breathe can impact on the way you come across:

            • What is their style? — Know the style of the person asking the questions.
            • Do they speak fast?
            • Do they like to use jargon? (Or do they hate it?)
            • Do they speak quietly or loudly?
            • Do they speak in long sentence?
            • Do they ask open questions or closed?

            These and more give you clues into the interviewers preferred way of speaking and if you can naturally mirror their language, terminology, tonality and phrasing the interviewer can feel like they are building a rapport with you.

            Don’t overdo it though, because that can be creepy and put them off!

            Down to the evil interview questions

            Think of it from the interviewer’s point of view, they’ve got to fill a position in their organization and they want their business to be the best. They want to know that the person they ask these questions to will be perfect to fit in their team, make the difference and help them achieve what they aim to.

            A big responsibility to achieve all of that in a few questions. So how can they find out who someone really is? How can they work out what is true in your CV and what you researched on line as the “top 10 things to include in your CV”?

            These questions are a mixture of tedium of asking the same question so many times, researching what questions you should ask (yes, it’s not just the interviewee that will hit the search engines!) and trying to ask questions that enables them to remember the individual behind each answer. So let’s look at what to say:

            I don’t know

              Not knowing the answer is not against the law and no one knows everything. So if you don’t know the answer, the first rule is don’t lie. You will get found out.

              Think about this right now, what could be an answer to a question that you don’t know that enables you to look honest and keen to learn more and capable in areas around this subject?

              Preparing some answers (Out loud so you can hear how they sound) means you can feel more prepared. And while I could write the words to say, they would be my words and not natural to you and so could come across as fake.

              The key to shining in an interview is allowing who you really are to shine through. (If they don’t like that, it could be this is the wrong company, not you’re the wrong candidate!)

              Don’t’ be a politician

                Another dangerous approach is to keep talking without answering the question. This is an infuriating technique that could cost you points. Think about answers that you can give that showcase what you do know in this field.

                “I’ve not had a lot of experience with xxx however I’ve had great results using xxx and it led to a xxx% increase in sales so I feel I have the right skills to migrate to xxx”

                Thinking about what you are good at and how it relates to the job you are going for means you can prepare lots of answers like this.

                Advertising

                When working with someone who is looking to pitch to an audience or engage an audience with an idea that they may not (initially) like, you don’t want to tell the audience what to think, however you do want to answer the negative questions that are in their heads.

                The same applies in an interview. What questions do you feel would worry you if an interviewer asked them of you? How could you alleviate their concerns in prepared answers?

                Proof is in the pudding

                  When you are faced with tough questions, be prepared with examples of how successful you’ve been in the past.

                  For instance, when I first trained as a coach many years ago, I didn’t want to tell people I was a newly qualified coach (newly qualified can sound amateur and not up to the job, right?), so I steered my answer to the fact that I was 1 of the UK’s youngest female automotive Body shop managers with over 20 years experience in business.

                  Proven experience, right?

                  Think about successes in your career and how they can feature in your proof.

                  Steer clear of extravagant exaggeration

                    While it’s important to showcase “why you” with proof and to be confident. No one likes a big head, so be mindful of your language.

                    I’m over enthusiastic at the best of times, so I have to be mindful of my audience and ask myself “is this the kind of language that makes them feel comfortable or am I making myself stand out for the wrong reasons.”

                    Feel free to say “I had a xx% increase in productivity from the team thanks to this idea;” however, avoid “It was due to my brilliance that I created this system that helped the department increase productivity by xx.”

                    How does your choice of language impact on the way you come across? Are you someone that risks exaggeration or exuberant language?

                    Know when to shut up

                      If you are digging yourself in a deep whole with an answer that goes nowhere. Know when to stop talking.

                      Taking a moment to prepare your prospective replies can help with this. If you’re concerned about not talking or having an answer, repeat their question back to them in this style: “That is a good question, ‘what is my view on my ability to deal with xxx?’” and in doing so, you create the space to think.

                      Thinking is not banned in an interview. If anything, a well prepared reply says you are confident in your own skin and are taking this seriously instead of just splurging out the first thing that comes into your head.

                      The answer for “What is your biggest weakness?”

                      They ask the question that you feel can only make you look bad, so how do you handle it?

                      Advertising

                      Remember the reason they are asking you these questions is because they want to find out who you are really are. They need to know who they are employing, so remember they are not trying to trick you.

                      Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has new things they need to learn. Everyone has something they wished they had handled differently. Everyone has something they’ve said they regretted.

                      Think of a moment in your professional life that you wish you had handled differently. How can you word it so that it sounds like you not only recognized the need to do something differently but learned something powerful from it too?

                      If you want to see how this works. Listen to the radio and a seasoned pro turn any question around so that they get to talk about what they want to.

                      I once trained a team who were likely to end up on the radio. They knew they weren’t going to be asked to speak about their business (which they wanted to) and it was likely to be a conversation about something random like mince pies. I remember one member of the team saying, “this is impossible” only for us to change their style of communication that meant within 2 sentences talking about mince pies had turned into talking about what the business was doing locally.”

                      It takes practice but can be done and is a skill you won’t just use in interviews, you could find yourself using this in every area of your life.

                      Another skill to copy from presenters and those great at TV and radio is their ability to bat the conversation back to the other person in a respectful way. While the interviewer is keen to hear you speak, it’s important to know when to stop talking and enable the interviewer to take control of the conversation again.

                      A big issue for candidates is that they are so keen to say everything relevant to the subject that has been raised that they don’t know when to let the interviewer take back the conversational control.

                      By practicing what you are saying and what you want it to say about you, you will feel more comfortable with giving the control back.

                      Final thoughts

                      I heard a story years ago that the English Rugby team were playing atrociously. They then employed a coach (not a sport coach, but a coach like myself) to help the team perform better.

                      One of the strategies they put in place was that in the second half, the team would come back on the pitch in a clean kit. This enabled them to feel fresh and new to the game bringing a new attitude and mindset.

                      I’ve been unable to find any proof of this story (and I’m always keen to verify what I share with you). However, I can tell you that this clean kit approach has worked with many clients who’ve found themselves making a mistake and not wanting 1 mistake to spiral into a cacophony of failure.

                      That they stop dragging up what has gone wrong. Stop the panic from escalating and start as if this is the very beginning. It’s powerful because the brain gets itself back to a positive state.

                      Thus if you find yourself drowning in a bad answer, let it go and concentrate on the result you want. And get that fresh feeling of “I’ve arrived and will do my best” or “If I’m not right for them, then they are not right for me.”

                      What could be your go to thought that gets you back to fresh thinking be?

                      Ultimately an interview is like any powerful communication you have in your life. Be it at work, at home, your child’s school, your parents doctor or even trying to get a flight out of a fog bound city.

                      The skills you learn to communicate powerfully can have a knock on effect across your entire life. So it’s worth investing some time and honing your skills.

                      Featured photo credit: Andrew Worley via unsplash.com

                      More by this author

                      Mandie Holgate

                      Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

                      How to Enjoy Parenting Teens and Help Your Kids Thrive What Happiness Is and Is Not: The True Meaning of Being Happy 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

                      Trending in Smartcut

                      1 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm 4 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 5 How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

                      Read Next

                      Advertising
                      Advertising
                      Advertising

                      Last Updated on April 17, 2019

                      10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

                      10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

                      What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

                      Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

                      They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

                      1. Communication Skills

                      Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

                      To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

                      Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

                      Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

                      After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

                      2. Flexibility

                      Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

                      Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

                      Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

                      Advertising

                      Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

                      3. Being a Team Player

                      Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

                      What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

                      This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

                      Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

                      4. Positive Mental Attitude

                      There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

                      Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

                      Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

                      It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

                      Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

                      5. A Strong Work Ethic

                      People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

                      Advertising

                      If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

                      Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

                      • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
                      • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
                      • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
                      • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

                      For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

                      6. Public Speaking

                      Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

                      Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

                      If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

                      For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

                      Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

                      7. Integrity

                      From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

                      • Always doing what you say you will do
                      • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

                      …even when no one is around to check up on you.

                      There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

                      Advertising

                      Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

                      8. Managing Your Time

                      Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

                      A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

                      Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

                      Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

                      These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

                      9. Assertiveness

                      In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

                      • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
                      • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
                      • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
                      • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

                      Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

                      How do you use this information for yourself?

                      It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

                      Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

                      Advertising

                      How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

                      10. Creative Thinking

                      LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

                      Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

                      How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

                      Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

                      These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

                      You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

                      What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

                      Final Thoughts

                      The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

                      So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

                      The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

                      More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

                      Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      Read Next