How To Answer What Are Your Weaknesses Job Interview Question?

Let me start by saying your greatest weakness is your greatest weakness.

That’s it.

It’s not your greatest strength disguised as a weakness.

Let me explain why I just had to say that…

I have come across way too many HR professionals recommending that you should take your greatest strength, take it to the extreme, and then present that as your weakness to the interviewer.

Here are some examples they suggest:

  • I work too hard... (Right...I'm sure you do)
  • I am a perfectionist... (You know it's almost funny hearing everyone saying this in interviews)
  • I don't delegate as much as I should... (This isn't the worst answer as far as bad answers go)
  • I am very critical of my own work... (Uh, I feel sorry for you)

Please…just stop!

Seriously. If you mention one of the above weaknesses as 99% of the candidates do, what do you think will happen?

The hiring manager will immediately label you as a BS’er.

 

First things first, let me introduce myself. I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in our strategy consulting business unit and the creator of the infamous LIG program. I am not HR. I am a Hiring Manager. I am sure you already know the difference. In case you don’t, here is a 1-liner; HR is the gatekeeper and Hiring Manager is the one whom you will be reporting to if you get the job.

Let’s start the topic;

In the world of consulting, we are challenged with deadlines and quality deliverables on a daily basis.

It’s tough out there.

This is same with any industry nowadays, be it investment banking, consumer goods, marketing, sales, anything. A successful company didn’t get to be number one with lazy employees.

Clients are demanding and competition is fierce. Whoever is not up to the challenge gets lost.

In these high-intensity environments, leaders need soldiers who will fight with them as one united team.

So, what’s my point?

There are no lies or cheats in such a team. There are no acts, no pretense.

So, when we are looking for new additions to such an environment, we make sure we can confidently trust you to deliver at the quality you committed to. There are no excuses, buts, uhmms, or what.

And if we’re going to be truthful and all… What are your weaknesses question is not about exposing your weaknesses or your shortcomings. It’s about giving you the opportunity to prove your honesty.

I hope I’m being clear when I say how honesty plays an integral role in your interview process of course while being careful about the impression you give. There is a fine line to walk here.

As hiring managers, we all have a checklist for character traits. And it goes like this:

  • Is she trustworthy?
  • Can she say sorry when she messes up? Can she learn from it and then move on with lessons learned?
  • Is she honest?
  • Is she motivated to work hard for the team?

If the answer is “YES” so far, only then do we move on to evaluate the hard skills.

It’s a mind game, at its best. You were asked a very simple question under pressure: What is your greatest weakness? If you can’t answer this honestly, you surely will not answer honestly once we start working together and I ask for that presentation you should have delivered in the morning.

Alright. I hope so far so good. You now know that the first thing you need to establish is honesty.

What is your greatest weakness? Let’s look at sample answers now

I can give you a million examples and show lists of weaknesses, but it would be difficult to tackle this topic without knowing your domain, background, and experience.

So, I will first share with you my very own weaknesses and perhaps you may also relate to some of them and use it for your own interview. If they don’t relate to you, don’t worry, I will give you more examples later below.

Sounds good?
The examples below will give you a good idea of what to say when the interviewer asks you about your weaknesses. Please read through and then we will analyze.

  • First weakness - PowerPoint

    Although I am very good with applications of PowerPoint, its tools and functions, I am not the greatest when it comes to designing the slides.

    This is true. I really am not a good designer. I can’t design a slide based on what I have in my head. But, luckily, PwC has probably the best slide library in the world. So, all I have to do is go through about 400 slides and pick a good template.

  • Second Weakness - Confrontational

    I am confrontational. A bit too much perhaps. This has given me many problems in the past, especially with clients from regions where confrontations are discouraged, such as Japan and the Philippines.

    Although I mastered (?) the art of confrontation, in certain cultures, confrontation itself is frowned upon. So, there isn’t really anything I can do about it other than be honest with the partner and excuse myself from those projects or not include uber-sensitive people in my teams. It’s rare to find consultants who run away from confrontation but they are out there.

  • Third Weakness - Transform Methodology

    We have a strategy development tool at work called “Transform”. I am just not good at using it.

    Prior to PwC, I used different methodologies and frameworks to develop strategies and somehow I can’t get rid of the thought-processes I developed earlier. That doesn’t mean I am bad at strategy development, but I am just not very good at following “Transform”.

  • Fourth Weakness - A little Impatient and get bored

    My motivation peaks at the 1st day of a new engagement, stays at peak for about a month or two, then drops very quickly after 6th month. As a result, I try to get projects that are shorter than 6 months in duration. This is not a major problem as 95% of our projects fall within the 6-month time frame.

  • Fifth Weakness - Not a copywriter

    I am not a copywriter. And my ability to write long reports depends on who I have in my team.

    To counteract this, I usually get a junior consultant who is a native English speaker to make sure my work is properly edited and proofread.

 

 

So, let’s analyze them.

What am I doing here? I'm giving you the weakness but then explaining that it’s really no big deal. In other words, the weakness is not something so great that it will fail me. So, while I am giving you honest answers, I am still being very careful of the impression I leave.

Let's continue with more sample answers.

Here you go with more sample answers to "what are your weaknesses";

  • May get overwhelmed

    Although I am a fast learner, I can get overwhelmed if I need to learn too many things in a very short time.

  • Adapting to new tools

    I sometimes have difficulty catching up with software tools we use at work. At my previous employer, we started with SAP, took me a good couple of months to learn the system, just when I thought I mastered it, we then changed to Oracle. I think I wasn’t as quick to adapt to the new system as some of my other colleagues.

  • Morning person

    I am a morning person. I perform incredibly well in the morning but then my performance gradually decreases as we progress in the day. As a result, I try not to schedule important meetings or presentations after 2 pm.

  • Obsessed with visuals

    I am obsessed with getting visuals right in presentations. I have given my team a hard time in the past on this. Visuals are at least 50% of the work while developing a presentation. In fact, it’s only 50% of the work, yet, it gives 80% of the impact. So, you can understand why I am obsessed with it.

So, now, get to work. Start writing down all your weaknesses in an Excel list like below:

what are your weaknesses

 

Once you finish the list, start evaluating based on the criteria below:

  1. Will mentioning this weakness hurt your chances?
  2. Is it something vital to your performance at work?
  3. Is it something not easily fixable if you work on it? (Certain weakness cannot be immediately fixed, like my lack of copywriting proficiency.)

Eliminate all those that you answered “Yes” to.

Once you finish the list, then I suggest you slidify them. Put your skills, strengths, and weaknesses in 1 neat PowerPoint slide. Take it out in the meeting and present it to the hiring manager. Trust me, it will work wonders. You will immediately realize his mood will change drastically. Yes, it's that good.

Below is a good template you can use to list your weaknesses;

skillset-slide

You can download the editable PPT version of the slides once you register here.

Hope you significantly benefited from this article. I strongly recommend you also join our LIG program. It's life changing.

 

 

 

Best,

Deniz Sasal