Most hiring managers use a number of different interview tactics in order to judge your candidacy. Knowledge based interview questions are designed to see how much you know. Wild card interview questions are used to see how well you think on your feet. Logic based interview questions are designed to see if you have problem solving skills.
The type of interview question most candidates dread, however, are questions that ask you to look at yourself in a negative light. These questions come in two forms:
- Weakness Questions
- Stress Questions
Stress questions are considerably less common. They are designed to literally insult you to see your reaction. The interviewer will listen to an answer, then respond with “Really? That’s your answer? Are you sure you don’t want to try again?” The interviewer may love your answer, but asks it in that tone to see if you get flustered. Stress questions are uncommon enough that we will ignore them for the purposes of this post.
Weakness questions are far more common. The interviewer asks you to point out flaws about yourself, in order to see what you can come up with as a response. Examples of weakness questions include:
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What is your fatal flaw?
- If we choose not to hire you, why do you think that would be?
As implied, the interviewer wants to hear you say something negative. Or at least, they want to see how you handle a question designed to make you look like a worse candidate. Answering these questions seems difficult, but is actually fairly simple.
What the Interviewer Wants to Hear
Any time you experience a weakness question, the goal is not to provide them with any information that would cause them to want to seek out another candidate. Rather, the goal is to give them something that no interviewer is going to hold against you. Also, you must always be confident about your candidacy. At no time should you act as though you are not the person for the job. You need to be confident that you are the right candidate. Modesty is not acceptable.
How to Answer
Each individual question is going to have its own type of answer, so rather than provide a general “how to” for answering weakness questions, let’s look at good answers for the examples above, and show what they have in common.
Q: What is your biggest weakness?
A: “My greatest weakness is probably that when I have a great idea, I sometimes do not feel free to share it in a public forum. I’d prefer to bring it up separately to my supervisor in private, and by doing so I make it harder for others to build on my ideas. I am currently working on being more open during company meetings with my thoughts and strategies.”
Q: What is your fatal flaw?
A: “I am always looking to improve myself, so I do not believe any flaw can be truly fatal, because that would imply that I cannot learn to do the tasks successfully. However, I would say my greatest weakness is that I sometimes do not feel free to share my great ideas…” (etc.)
Q: If we choose not to hire you, why do you think that would be?
A: “I am confident that I am a great fit for the position, so if I am not hired it would likely be because I did not do an adequate job explaining why I am right for the role.”
All of these answers have the following in common:
- They are all positive.
- They are all confident.
- They are all of minimal importance.
None of these are going to harm your candidacy and you are showing off the confidence that the interviewer wants you to have.
Whenever you face a question about your weaknesses, or a question that asks you to say something negative about yourself, don’t give them an answer they can use or act as though you might not deserve the job. Show them you deserve the job and only supply them with information that is barely considered a flaw, if at all.
Take Away Interview Tips
- Be confident.
- Give them nothing they can hold against you.
- Why Your “Biggest Weakness” Isn’t Being a Perfectionist
- Interview Question: What Are Your Two Greatest Weaknesses?
- List of Ideas for “Biggest Weaknesses” That Aren’t Weaknesses
- Difficult Interview Question: What Would You Do If You Were Asked to Perform a Task That You Know Would Hurt the Company?
- Q&A – What Are Your Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses?