How to talk about your weaknesses – without really appearing weak!

Nobody enjoys talking about their weaknesses or their failures. Thinking about the times that you made mistakes or times that you were just plain wrong can be negative and lead you nowhere. However questions about your weaknesses are often asked in interviews and you should be prepared tackle questions like this.

An interviewer may ask:
“Tell me about a time when you made a mistake at company XYZ”
“What is your greatest weakness in your professional life?”

To prepare well to answer this question we have to ask what the interviewer is trying to find out by asking it. This is not a question where the details of your actual mistake, your actual failure or your actual professional error are really important – it is how you choose to tell the story that counts.

A question about your weaknesses or failure is asking you a few things:

  • What do you consider a failure? (Big things, small things?)
  • What is your attitude towards mistakes? (Do you care about your mistakes or treat them as a joke?)
  • What lessons do you learn from your mistakes?
  • What is your attitude to self-improvement and growth?

Because you are going to give away your attitudes towards work preparing to talk about your weaknesses for is perhaps more important than preparing to talk about your achievements.

Try this technique to prepare:

Think back in your career to a mistake or failure.
Choose a mistake or failure that you learnt a lesson from.
Choose a mistake or weakness that is serious enough for the lesson to be useful, not something small and trivial.
It should not be an example of a failure which gave you knowledge or insight that you would not have otherwise had.

Be honest! This is not a time to make up a story or use someone else’s story. This is a chance to reveal your own experiences and how you have used them to grow.