How to answer common interview questions: ‘What are your weaknesses?’

Welcome to our blog series on how to answer the most common interview questions. Be prepared and make the most of every answer with our handy guide!

What are your weaknesses?

Though this might seem like a difficult question to answer, it’s really an opportunity to show self-awareness and humility as well as all the specific skills you’ve developed to grow, improve, and solve problems. Turn your weaknesses into strengths with some basic preparation.

Why are they asking?

You might think this question is about getting to know you or testing your honesty, but it’s really more about problem-solving.

Everyone has weaknesses, so interviewers want to see if you can identify your weaknesses, and then if you can demonstrate an ability to work around them and solve any problems they may be causing. They want to see that you can self-reflect, recognise where you need to improve, and make a plan to change things, and follow through.

In any role, there are going to be difficult situations to overcome, so this question is your chance to prove you can do this. Ultimately, they want to know you can handle adversity and get the job done.

This is truly an opportunity to sell yourself, and bring up any skills or experience you haven’t yet mentioned or that aren’t on your CV.

How should you answer?

There’s a fine line to walk between arrogance and underselling yourself. While everyone has shortcomings, remember you are qualified for this and capable of doing the job. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be in the interview room.

Think about things that have tripped you up in the past, either personally or professionally, or look through old performance evaluations if you need inspiration.

Be careful not to choose a weakness that could directly affect your performance in the role you’re interviewing for. Check the job description, and avoid all the skills and attributes listed there.

For example, in many risk and compliance roles, you’ll need to make tough ethical decisions, communicate them, and stick to your guns, so it’s probably not a good idea to mention that you’re indecisive or that you get nervous speaking to senior stakeholders.

Once you’ve come up with a genuine weakness, think about the techniques you have developed to overcome it. Self-awareness is a great quality to demonstrat, but you also want to show that you’re proactive in managing your shortcomings.

In preparing for this question, you might need to actually address your weaknesses! Consider some self-improvement resources you could employ to overcome a problem you’ve had in your professional or personal life. You might discover an app or online tool to help you improve efficiency, focus, or timekeeping, such as trackable to-do lists or calendar reminders. You could attend a class or training course, work with a mentor, or find a voluntary role to gain extra experience in an area you’re lacking.

When crafting your answer, start with your weakness, then explain how you manage it citing strategies and new skills you have learnt. Finally, back this up with an example of an occasion you were able to do this successfully and the positive outcome that resulted.

Do you struggle with time management or sticking to deadlines?
Talk about your rigorous diary management, the apps or software you use to help you divide your time, and your pre-planned check-in points.

Do you find it difficult to say no to things when you’re at capacity?
Explain how you manage and prioritise your workload, check in with what it’s possible for you to do in the time you have, and practise assertiveness in order to give polite, but firm, nos.

Are you really hard on yourself when something doesn’t go to plan?
Discuss how you’ve learned to ask for help from the professionals around you when you need support with a piece of work, and how you try to see each failure as a learning opportunity and a way to improve next time.

You're ready for your interview, good luck!

How to answer common interview questions blog series:

Tell me about yourself
Describe your current role
How did you handle a difficult situation?

For more help, advice, and interview coaching, give our team a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at jobs@ajfoxcompliance.com, or you can find your consultant's contact details here.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance