Q: I am a December, 2021 grad. It seems to be a hot job market but I never expected so many company interviews for one role. I am trying to juggle final exams and an interview schedule. One question keeps coming up, and I am struggling with a response. The question is about one of my weaknesses. I have several weaknesses, but I don’t think I should be sharing all of my weaknesses to the interviewer. How do I handle this question?
A: It is smart to prepare for an interview in advance. We all have strengths and weaknesses. However, it is wise to pursue roles which capitalize on your strengths but minimize your weaknesses. Think about each role in advance. What can you bring to the role that will capitalize on your strengths? Additionally, how can you recognize your weaknesses and minimize them in your next role?
Here are my recommendations on addressing weaknesses or development needs:
- Prepare and expect a question about weaknesses. Preparation minimizes your nerves and helps you deliver a response in a professional manner. Preparation also helps boost your confidence.
- You can state a weakness and then discuss that you recognize this area as a weakness, and that you worked to improve this skill or behavior. Try to select a weakness which is not a core requirement of the role. For example, if a role requires you to have advanced accounting skills, and you mention that you struggle with spreadsheets, then this will likely be problematic. Instead, you could answer that you struggled with mastering PowerPoint, but you have devoted extra time to learning advanced concepts in PowerPoint, and now you feel like you have a good grasp of how best to design an impressive PowerPoint slide deck. This response also demonstrates that you are able to identify a weakness in yourself and then work to improve it.
- Focus on a skill that your target role may never require. If your role will likely never require selling concepts to a large group or presenting to audiences, you can share that as an example. You can also highlight a strength when describing this weakness. “An area that I need to improve upon is presenting to large groups. I haven’t had many opportunities to present to large groups, but I hope to improve this skill in the future. I tend to focus on honing my analytical skills, since most of my roles have been in financial analysis.”
- When responding to a question about a weakness, strive to be authentic. The responses such as “I am an overachiever” or “I work too hard” are probably overused, even if there may be some truth to them.
Practice your response a few times. Interviewing, like any skill, improves with practice.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.