Common thinking has been to give an answer that turns a negative into a positive; like: “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard and don’t know when to turn it off sometimes. Or “I push myself too hard.”
To which, the typical UNSPOKEN sarcastic response is: “Yeah, right!”
Or else people answer “I can’t think of any.” Or “I don’t have any!”
Saying you don’t know indicates you’re either clueless about yourself, or essentially telling them “I’m not going to answer that because it will hurt my chances at this job.” Not a good response. Telling them you have none makes you seem like you’re very full of yourself! Also not a good response.
So, how should that question be answered? Think in terms of what might make you an attractive candidate. What are they looking for? None of us, not me, and not you is perfect. We all have faults and real weaknesses. Generally, an interviewer is attracted to someone that’s real, self-aware, and honest.
I believe the most effective answer is one that is true! It has to be chosen carefully, but it will make you a much more “real” person with whom they can see spending 8 hours a day.
It should not be a weakness that’s critical to the position, like “I don’t have a great eye for detail” when you’re interviewing for a position as an accountant! It should not be a weakness that makes you out to be a slug, like “I’m not a morning person and have trouble getting to work on time.” And it should not be a weakness that makes it appear you may be problem, like “I get annoyed at other people’s bad habits”!
Any answer you give should show that you’re aware of the weakness and doing something about it. A good example would be: “I sometimes have had trouble doing presentations to a group, so I’ve joined ToastMasters to learn how to become more confident and a better speaker.” Or “Sometimes I have a tendency to get distracted by things that come up throughout the day, so I’ve learned how to use my calendar and task lists effectively to keep me on track.”
Those kinds of answers show you are real, willing to discuss your vulnerabilities, self aware, and interested in improving yourself. Now THAT’s turning a negative into a positive!
As with any interview question, preparation and practice will make you a much better candidate. Spend some time to think about what weaknesses to share, and how to present it best!