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Your Greatest Weakness is Your Strength

This is a guest post by Brent Peterson on answering the question about your greatest weakness.

greatest weakness

I’m excited to share another guest post with you today. And it’s on a subject I’ve never covered.  It’s on that job interview question that so many interviewers still ask.

The one about a failing that you and I apparently have.  Or two.  Anyway, I really like the process Brent walks us through to define an answer to this common job interview question.

His site (see links at the end of his post) offers great tips for the job interview.  And he’s made available a very complete interview prep padfolio there as well.

Enjoy this post and I will be back tomorrow!

From here on, you are listening to Brent . . .

Been there too

As I sat nervously on the other side of the table, I dreaded the question would come. It would expose that tragic flaw that would seal my candidacy into the circular file.

So what do you feel is your greatest weakness?

I stumbled for an answer… “Sometimes, I work too much.”  Perfect. That would work.

I was fresh out of college. It didn’t work. 16 years later, it still doesn’t work.

The question “So what do you feel is your greatest weakness?” is as common as “So tell me a little bit about yourself.” However, it is one of the most misunderstood questions in job interviews.

And I trust you’ve heard it before as a candidate.

What is the real reason for the greatest weakness question?

The purpose for the job interview question isn’t to expose your tragic flaw.  The purpose of the question is twofold:

1.     To see if you recognize your own limitations.

2.     To see what you’ve done about it.

What is an example of someone’s greatest weakness?

First, recognize what becomes a great weakness.  If you lack certain skills, it isn’t an innate failing. It is a lack of training and experience that can be rectified.

It is actually one of your strengths taken to the extreme. Think about it.

When you use your strengths or core competencies, you became blinded by your own heroics. You may be a great editor, but if you find yourself always making changes – knowing (or feeling) that the document can still get better?

Do you know someone who is very comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, but fails to deliver a clear message? Instead, he just keeps talking to make a point. Or to make (too) many points.

So how do you answer the greatest weakness question?

The response to this job interview question can be handled in 3 easy to remember parts:

1.     Recognize that any strength taken to the extreme becomes a person’s greatest weakness

2.     Identify the strength (cool note: you’ve just turned the job interview question around to highlight something positive the interviewer needs to know about you)

3.     Explain how you adjusted (again the real reason the question is asked)

Sample response

Here is an actual response I use in my career:


So Brent, what do you view as your greatest weakness?

My response (word for word)

Thank you for asking.

I recognize that any strength taken to the extreme becomes a person’s greatest weakness.

For example, I am very adept at researching information to solve problems.  I know from experience that there is an unlimited amount of information available and if I did nothing but research, I would never solve the problem.

Therefore, I set a time limit on how much research I will do based on the magnitude of the problem. Once I have hit that time limit whether it is two hours or two days, I know it is now time to propose a solution to the problem.

Greatest weakness question: Response breakdown

Notice in the response above what just happened:

1.     I recognized that any strength taken to the extreme can become a weak area

2.     I highlighted one of my key strengths (on a question about a weak area no less 🙂

3.     I demonstrated that I can spot my own weak areas and most importantly, I can appropriately manage them.

The response was also short and to the point.  The interview moves on.

So remember that your greatest weakness is your strength. And you’ll do great.

What experiences or recommendations do you have regarding the greatest weakness question?

job interview question, tough job, interview prep, interview questions, interview angel, job interview, common, questions, weakness, interviewing Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, is the founder of Interview Angel Inc, a company that offers a comprehensive guide and toolkit for job seekers to use in interviews.

Interview Angel is in use at universities, corporations, non-profit agencies, and local governments.  The Interview Angel padfolio is also available online for individual investment.

Discover customer testimonials and blog posts at Interview Angel. He is also on LinkedIn, Facebook and on Twitter (@InterviewAngel).

Thanks xianrendujia for the photo via Flickr.

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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