Emerge from this question an even stronger candidate, all while maintaining your integrity. Here's a strengths-based approach to the weakness question:
Philosophy + Strength + Flip-Side + Mitigation + Positive Ending
The interviewer is listening for confidence (you need to believe yourself if you want them to believe you), humility (we all have weaknesses), self-awareness (can you manage yourself?), and reassurance (that your problem isn’t going to become their problem). That’s a lot to pull off while under stress. Plan in advance with the template and sample messaging below. We'll put it all together at the end.
Philosophy + Strength + Flip Side + Mitigation + Positive Ending
"To me, weaknesses and strengths are just two sides of the same coin."
"I really view weaknesses as the natural flip-side of strengths."
Don’t start by picking a weakness. Instead, select a strength. One that you respect in yourself and that you think they need.
“One of my greatest strengths is…”
“My team always tells me that what makes me different is…”
“Colleagues tell me that I'm a natural at…”
Share the natural flip-side of that strength.
“Earlier in my career, I recognized that the reverse of that ability was the tendency to…”
“The natural flip-side of that skill is that I can….”
“I realized, because of that, I needed to be mindful of not falling into the trap of…”
What do you do (or could you do) so that you minimize the downside, thereby naturally maximizing the upside? Make sure it’s something under your control.
“I’ve learned that I can interrupt that tendency by….”
“Things turned around when I realized what a difference it makes to always..."
“What I’ve found effective in mitigating that, is to block off time every quarter to…”
Reassure them. End with evidence that they don’t need to be worried about that weakness.
“...I actually mentor new hires on that topic now.”
“...in fact, my boss promoted me last year because of having high ratings in that category.”
“...and once I started doing that, I've been complimented on....”
Sample Strength = Adaptability
Natural Weakness= Easily bored, low-output when under-stimulated
“I really see weaknesses as just the natural flip-side of strengths. And because one of my greatest strengths is adaptability...quickly learning how to do whatever is necessary to respond to change...the obvious downside is that I get bored if I feel under-stimulated. I learned early in my career that I do my best work when I’m constantly learning, so I made it a point to always prioritize professional development. These days, I have a subscription to Coursera so that I always have access to learning new things. I suppose that’s also part of why I’m so happy in finance! The fact that regulations are constantly changing is fun because it keeps me on my toes."
Emma Garrett of emma-garrett.com is an executive career coach, passionate about career and lifestyle design.