How to Answer “Your Greatest Weakness”: A Psychologist’s Perspective

May 16, 2019

Many recruiters and managers love to ask candidates about their greatest weakness.  There are many different articles that give many different approaches on how to effectively answer this question in the interview process.  Here are a few ways that tackle this tough question through the eyes of Psychologist, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

His first suggestion is to act surprised.  No matter what you say it will sound more authentic and be stronger if you do not sound rehearsed.   If you sound too prepared the hiring managers will give this question less credit, making them feel less competent and you less truthful.  “research shows that both verbal and non-verbal communication that seems authentic is generally linked to more positive perceptions of personal attributes, including job potential.”

Another thing to avoid is common clichés.  Saying things like “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “ I’m too honest” Or “I’m too self-critical” will not help you out here.  Coming up with a more original statement here will reflect that you are genuinely honest, self-critical or aiming for perfection.

While it is important to express your honesty, avoid being brutally honest.  Treat “your greatest weakness” question on your first interview like you would on your first date.  You don’t lay everything out on the table, unless you are intentionally sabotaging yourself, in the prospective new position or for a second date.

Finally, here are some suggestions on things that you should say.

The hiring manager or recruiter will have already identified some weakness or gaps in your resume or background.  Talking about these will show the interviewers that you are demonstrating self-awareness.  This also shows that they already found your weakness and there is nothing they missed, the interviewers will feel good that they have identified your shortcomings.  “ In essence, this strategy makes them look good and feel good about themselves, without weakening you beyond what they thought… and arguably strengthening you because you are aware and honest about it.”  In turn, if you do NOT point out the weakness they noticed, you will be perceived as suspicious or trying to hide something.

Lastly it is important to know that any characteristic can be considered either a strength or a weakness depending on the circumstances or the situation.  Address your weakness and point out ways that you are going to self-coach to contain your weakness.

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