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Career Tips

How to answer the question, 'What's your greatest weakness?' in a job interview

While the purpose of the job interview is for a hiring manager to learn more about your background and skill  set, you should prepare yourself to answer the question that can catch even the toughest candidates off guard: “What's your greatest weakness?”

How can you answer this difficult question in a way that will keep your interviewer interested and engaged? When preparing your response, realize the importance of being honest. Hiring managers understand that no one's perfect, and will appreciate the fact that you're motivated to improve your skill set.

“Share a weakness that you've had in the past, and what you've done to overcome this weakness,” says Carla Patalano, professor and program chair of the Master of Business Administration and the Master of Human Resource Management programs at New England College of Business. “Typical answers such as ‘I work too hard' will come across as unauthentic, so make sure you take some time to reflect on areas where you can improve.”

To identify weaknesses you've overcome or currently face, try these exercises and questions to ask yourself:

  • Think about the projects you work on during your typical workday. Do you enjoy some tasks more than others? Reflect on feedback you've received from your coworkers or on projects, or areas where you feel discouraged. Do you have trouble managing your time, or expressing yourself in staff meetings?
  • If you feel comfortable, ask your peers or past mentors about areas where they think you could improve. If you're applying for a new job, be careful of asking your boss or coworkers in your department, as this could arouse suspicion.
  • If you are currently in school, consider taking an assessment through your school's student services. Through New England College of Business' learning assessments and online learning academic support, we help students identify their strengths and areas of improvement.

Once you've pinpointed your weakness, frame it in a positive light and show how you're working to overcome it. For example, if your weakness is that you have a hard time being succinct, explain that you're working on avoiding rambling in person and on paper by speaking slower and beginning with the key point you want to make.

If you're truthful to yourself throughout this process, it could help you not just in your interview, but throughout your career. Improving your weakness shows that you're focused on becoming a better professional, which is appealing to hiring managers in any field.

How have you worked to improve your weaknesses on the job? Share with @NECBedu on Twitter, post on Facebook or connect with us onLinkedIn!

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