Tricky interview question: What do you consider as your greatest weakness?

Tricky interview question: What do you consider as your greatest weakness?

Before an interview, a lot of people research the company and its goals to present themselves as ideal candidates. However, not many try to understand their own personality. So when they are asked a common question, “what do you consider your greatest weakness”, they either find themselves at a loss for words or come up with a hasty response.

Responses like “I don’t have any weakness” or something like “I’m too hard working” also do not. So, how exactly do we address this perplexing interview question?

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Before we learn to frame a suitable response, let’s try to understand the reason why employers often ask this question, and what they truly try to assess.

Vishwanadh Raju, Head of Talent Acquisition Operations, Talent500, says asking questions about weakness to candidates is a way to get to know their personality and to determine if they are fit for the organisation. New-generation companies ask such qualified questions to ensure that they are perceived as equal-opportunity employers. This question assists them in assessing certain behaviours that may not gel well with the organisation, so it helps recruiters select candidates for the next step, says Raju.

Responses employers often come across

Elaborating on the responses employers often hear, he says that they can be categorised into two major types: honest response and one that recruiters want to hear.

The second one is very tricky as this is a trap in some way or the other. Raju gives an example: “Someone saying ‘I am a workaholic’, or ‘I can’t go to bed without completing the tasks I have on hand’. While this appears as a strength, the way it is portrayed makes the employer feel that they have the right person. The trap point of view comes from the input of quoting the strength as weakness and so creating a good impression on the hiring team.”

To avoid hiring such candidates, he says companies often ask follow-up questions to get to the real weakness. Some companies also ask individuals what they are doing about their weaknesses.

What to avoid while answering this question
In the hiring expert’s opinion, it’s of utmost importance that an individual’s true behaviours are portrayed in the interview process. There should be consistency in the candidate’s approach. This is important as many interviewers might ask similar questions to check the nature of responses.

It is okay to have a weakness, says Raju, but have a plan to overcome it and discuss this with the potential employer.

It is necessary to build trust with the potential employer, so it is okay to be transparent with them.

What is an ideal response to this question?
According to Raju, an ideal response to the question on “greatest weakness” is candidly naming it and then explaining how the candidate is working to overcome it.

A smart way for candidates to deal with this question is to tell an interviewer how they dealt with a situation earlier, and how they are now dealing with it, after engaging in self-improvement processes. This will allow the hiring teams to understand that you acknowledge your weaknesses, and are working on them.

Organisations may use stress interviews to get the best out of a candidate. What one needs to do is study the organisation well, talk to a few people and understand its cultural aspects properly before attending the interview, adds the head of talent acquisition at Talent500.

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Author: Shirley