Interview question series: Tell me about your biggest weakness?

A difficult question that you may come across in a behavioural interview is about weakness. A candidate would want not want to disclose his weakness as it may hamper his chances of success in an interview. At the same time, he has to mention areas of improvement. Herein lies the trickiness of this question. Damn if you, damn if you don’t!

Let’s get a perspective into why the interviewer wants to ask this question. In corporate world, no one is perfect and an employee sometimes may have to work on some of his improvement areas. The interviewer wants to assess whether the candidate is likely to accept his weakness, take a realistic stock of them and then devise a time-bound action plan to work on them

“Tricky question !”

Step-Wise approach to answering the weakness question:

  • Identify skills required for the job: Skills could be soft skills such ad communication, people leadership as well as technical skills. Skills required for fulfilling the job may be mentioned in the job description. If not, skills may have to be assessed based on the tasks to be completed. Another way of assessing skills for the job is to ask people who have performed such roles in the past.

    Let’s take the example to assess the skills required for an account executive

    An accounts payable executive may require soft skills such as advanced business written communication, oral communication, public speaking skills, cross functional skills, knowledge of accounting standards, experience of handling auditors, knowledge of ERP and experience of interacting with vendors

  • Arrange the skills in the order of priority: The next step is to arrange the skills in the order of priority starting from the most important:

    For instance, in the above case for an accounts payable executive, the skills required may be arranged in the order of priority (most important comes first) as below:

    1. Experience of interacting with vendors
    2. Knowledge of ERP
    3. Advanced business written communication
    4. Oral communication
    5. Knowledge of accounting standards
    6. Cross-functional skills
    7. Public speaking
  • Select the least important skills relevant for this job: In the case above the least important skills are cross-functional skills and public speaking skills.

    For instance, I need to work on my public speaking skills. I feel that public speaking is very important as one takes leadership roles. I plan to enrol in the local Toastmasters club to enhance my public speaking. I will be enrolling in the public speaking online course in Coursera to learn the finer nuances. I plan to see videos of leaders such as Obama, Narendra Modi to supplement my skills. Finally, I will actively seek put opportunities at work to improve my public speaking skills. I hope that through these steps, I can improve my public speaking skills in a period of 6 months.

  • Mention Actionable steps done till date: In case the candidate has already taken any steps to improve upon his weakness, he should mention that.

    For instance, the narrative above could be modified as below, I plan to enrol have enrolled in the local Toastmasters club, last week to enhance my public speaking skills.

Tips :

  • Non-negotiable skills: Certain skills such as soft skills may be given such as good written or oral skills may be assumed to be given. Hence it is advised not to mention these as non-negotiable skills. Also, for certain roles, certain skills may be essential such as communication skills
  • Prepare 2 to 3 weakness: Prepare 2 to 3 weakness using steps mentioned above as some interviewers insist on 2 to 3 weakness

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