Know Your Weaknesses

Posted September 29, 2011 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

It’s one of the most common job interview questions there is: “What is your greatest weakness?” And all too often, interviewees answer this question incorrectly. Conventional wisdom tells us to spin our answer. “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” “I work too hard.” Blah, blah blah, trust me, blah, blah, blah. If you are asked this question, answer honestly. Tell them your weakness. And then tell them how you work diligently to manage that weakness.

This sounds like good advice, but it poses a significant stumbling block. In order to answer this question honestly, you actually need to know your weaknesses. Today, one of my weaknesses came out to play, and it reminded me how important it is to know your weaknesses – because if you’re not actively working to improve them, you’re useless. To help you on your journey, this career girl is sharing with you my two greatest weaknesses (in business – in life it’s Cheetos!)

  • I am incapable of hiding emotion on my face. If you’re talking to me and I’m thinking, “Shut the hell up, you’re pissing me off”, you will see that emotion written all over my face. If I’m happy, you’ll know I’m happy. If I’m confused, you’ll know I’m confused. And normally this makes me authentic, but when I’m ticked off or annoyed, it causes me to come off as defensive and even unprofessional at times. What I need to work on is being a more open listener rather than drawing my initial conclusions the moment I hear an idea. I must work harder at actually controlling my snap judgments, which in turn will hopefully control my facial expression.
  • My work is personal, too personal. I have an incredibly thick skin. I can get yelled at day in and day out without tears. I can stomach uncomfortable conversations with executives better than almost anyone I know. But the moment you get into criticizing something I’ve worked hard on (more so than feedback and general constructive criticism), I become Mama Bear. I pour my heart and soul into my work and I will fight for it. This, again, can often cause me to seem defensive and unprofessional when Mama Bear rears her ugly head. And frankly, I don’t know if this is something I’ll ever truly be able to work on. I try to repeat, “It’s just business” over and over in my head, and it just doesn’t work. My love of my work is also what makes me good at it. Well, look at that. I just broke my own cardinal rule of spinning a weakness into a strength….see how hard this is?

So the moral of the story is that your weaknesses answer is not always perfect. It never will be. Talking about your weaknesses should be uncomfortable for you. But do it honestly and you’ll never go wrong. Authenticity is key to any job interview, but especially in the case of this very important question.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."