It’s the dreaded double-edged sword, the ‘gotcha!’ moment in an interview, the question that many would-be employees perform oratory gymnastics to spin into something positive: what’s your biggest weakness?
The recruiter is trying to get an idea of your areas for improvement, but definitely doesn’t want to hear something that would rule you out from the job — a fine line to walk in a high pressure situation.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was hit with the dreaded question this morning and went with the “sometimes I work too hard” angle.
“I tend to go straight into the problem-solving mode, and I think when I do that people sometimes don’t think that I have really understood how they are feeling,” Morrison responded.
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“[I tend to go] straight into fixing things and sometimes that might not come across the right way, but what my passion is, is to ensure that we do deal with these problems that we face because we have many conflict problems, and they continue, that is the nature of government, it is always hard.”
It goes on, but one can see the PM didn’t exactly nail his response.
In a tit-for-tat sign of things to come during this election cycle, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese was also asked what his biggest weakness is.
“I am very loyal to people and sometimes that makes me a bit predictable, and that sometimes can hurt politically,” the Opposition Leader responded.
So how does one respond to the trick question — whether you’re a contender for the country’s leadership or just a job seeker hoping to make a good impression?
Job listing giant Indeed says the ideal way to answer this question is to rather oxymoronically think about areas for improvement that show skills.
“The key to preparing for this question is to identify weaknesses that still communicate strengths. This will show the interviewer that you are introspective enough to know your areas of opportunity,” Indeed wrote.
Here are Indeed’s 10 best ways to answer the question (and probably come off better than our leaders in the process).
1. “I focus too much on the details”
This can show you are detail-oriented and capable of spotting minor mistakes.
2. I have a hard time letting go of a project.
Last-minute reviews can catch those typos that others missed, leaving a more refined product.
3. I have trouble saying “no”.
This implies you’re ready to pull your sleeves up when the going gets tough, though boundaries are important too.
4. I get impatient when projects run beyond the deadline.
Your prospective employer may like that this indicates you stick to promises.
5. I could use more experience in…
Maybe it’s a certain way of using Excel, or public speaking — either way this shows you’re self-aware.
6. I sometimes lack confidence.
It’s good to follow this one with how you find confidence valuable, and the strides you’ve taken to improve your own.
7. I can have trouble asking for help.
This one can show you’re capable of independent work but is more effective when followed by how you’re working on this.
8. It has been difficult for me to work with certain personalities.
Mentioning you don’t benefit from aggression or shame in the workplace is a good way to show your boundaries.
9. It can be difficult for me to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
This shows a strong work ethic, though Indeed says you should speak about how you work on this balance.
10. I have been uncomfortable working with ambiguity.
This answer shows you value clear instruction and a solid management style.
“By presenting both the problem and the solution, you can transform your weakness into a strength,” Indeed concludes.