If you’ve been looking for a job long enough, you’ve probably come across gazillions of articles already that counsel you to take your weakness and turn it into a strength. (Yeah, yeah yeah–:been there: done that: as if the employer doesn’t know that this is the game you’re playing….
What, pray tell, motivates an employer to ask this? The answer is really very simple. First of all, they want to know to what extent a candidate realizes that he/she even HAS weaknesses. (It’s awfully difficult to correct a problem if you’re unwilling to admit that you have it!) Secondly, the employer is looking to find out whether said candidate is willing to DO something about it.
The single best strategy is to (a) acknowledge the problem and (b) state that you are actively doing something to correct it. Your dialogue might go something like this:
EMPLOYER: “Tell me, Jennifer, what you consider your biggest weakness?”
JENNIFER: “Well, sir, I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Excel isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. However, last month, I signed up for a three-part class at the Community College and by October, I’ll have my certificate. Then, it’s just a matter of practice, practice and more practice, and from what I understand of this position, I’ll have ample opportunity to demonstrate my competence to you.”
In the above instance, the interviewee has pinpointed an area in which she does not feel very confident, but before the employer has time to even jot that information down, she has taken care of any possible objection he could have by telling him EXACTLY what steps she’s taken to rectify this problem. This is a very effective technique, as it carries with it the subliminal message ‘ Aha: here’s someone who is obviously on the ball!” At the same time, the candidate will have demonstrated to a prospective employer that she is an honest and forthright individual—both qualities that are highly prized in the work world.
Such a comment will also allow you to also select other areas (that aren’t of critical importance to the position for which you are being considered) and elaborate on how you have also improved in these areas. Once again, the message comes through loud and clear: “She’s really a self-starter with lots of initiative.”
You might say “ I’ve always had a tendency to try to fit just ONE more thing into a given time frame which inevitably leads to disaster. So, I’ve subscribed to the phone company’s voice mail message service and now I have the service call me 15 minutes before the assigned deadline. That way, I always manage to finish a task on time, or show up for an appointment when I’m supposed to be there.” That doesn’t really leave a manager a lot of room to react negatively.
And yes, honesty really IS the best policy!