3 Ways To Talk About Your Greatest Weakness (Or Biggest Failure)

weaknessLooking for a job is a job. You need to prepare your resume. You need to fill out your incomplete LinkedIn profile. The one that’s been inactive for years. You need to develop a job-search plan.

While each of those can be intimidating, there’s nothing more nerve-racking than going on a job interview. The best way to calm those nerves is to prepare questions to the most commonly asked questions in advance.

It’s not difficult to prepare responses for “tell me about yourself” or “why should we hire you?” Most people are uncertain what to say when asked about their greatest weakness or greatest failure.

In the past a common strategy was to choose something “negative” that is actually a positive. Like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much”. But hiring managers are not fooled by those fabrications.

One of the reasons hiring managers ask questions about weaknesses and failures it to see if you can look at yourself objectively.

It’s unsettling for candidates because job interviews are an opportunity to sell themselves. Naturally, they don’t want to talk about things that didn’t go right.

The key to put a positive spin on a negative question. The best way to accomplish this is to plan your answer in advance. There are many ways to address weaknesses and/or failures. Here are 3 ideas to get you started.

Something You’ve Overcome

One way to talk about a weakness or failure is to focus on something you’ve turned into a strength.  For example, maybe you had poor presentation skills (weakness) which led you to bomb a client presentation (failure).

However you’ve turned this around by attending Toastmaster’s for the past few months. This is particularly compelling if the training helped you deliver a wow presentation and win a new client.

Told in this light, it shows that you were able to recognize a weakness and take it upon yourself to improve yourself. If it’s something related to the job you’re interviewing for even better.

Something You’re Working On

Another idea is to mention something that you are working on right now. Perhaps you’re a manager who didn’t get glowing reviews during your 360 degree review. However, you’re taking a management course or working with a coach.

This shows you are able to take criticism and use what you’ve learned to improve yourself. Again, if it’s something related to the job or career you’re pursuing better yet.

Something Unrelated

A third suggestion is to talk about something that is not directly related to your job or career. Maybe you’re a marketing manager who’s not great with numbers. While this hadn’t had an impact on your career so far, you’ve decided to take an accounting class for marketing professionals which will help you in a management position down the road.

Job interviews are inherently stressful. If you don’t impress the interviewer it’s unlikely, you’ll move on to the next phase. One way to calm those jitters s to prepare for questions you’re probably going to be asked, like questions about your weaknesses or failures, in advance. (Here’s another way to boost your confidence.)

As you know, there’s a lot on the line. So spend some time planning your replies to common interview questions today. Then practice, practice, practice.