What’s the Best Answer to the Dreaded Weakness Question?

Research on investor confidence sheds light on how you should answer the worst question you may be asked in a job interview. That would be:

What’s the Best Answer to the Dreaded Weakness Question? image shutterstock 922395 300x200Weakness Interview photo from ShutterstockWhat is your greatest weakness?

You could of course, be honest. The true answer might be:

Fig Newtons

Fine, limp hair with no volume

My right quadriceps

Ryan Gosling

MASH re-runs

The Bossa Nova

Unfortunately, you know the recruiter wants you to reveal some impairment that will directly affect your job performance. And, you really can answer honestly and directly, while using the opportunity to win their confidence that you are the right candidate.

That investor research revealed what type of problem creates a positive impression. This information is doubly useful because the same type of answer causes people who’ve failed to forgive you – and give you a second chance. So, if you’re getting a legitimately bad performance review because you’ve made an error, use the same approach. You’ll keep your job, and maybe get in line for a promotion and a raise.

What type of admission gives you such power when you’re in a difficult spot?

Choose a behavior that you have control over. That’s what is key to a successful answer. Don’t choose an affliction like ADD, a deep-seated personality flaw like jealousy or a chronic condition like, “I just can’t get myself to file papers once a project is done.”

Choose a behavior that is transitory and solvable by you, even if it is a chronic condition. For example,

“Keeping up with changes on social media sites is like drinking from a fire hose for me. The torrent of information is amazing. So, I keep very close tabs on just five networks that mean the most to my company, and I am a master of those. Then, I follow two experts who basically filter the key information on the other sites. I find that if I attend a social media web conference once a month, I remain clued in and connected. It remains a battle that I fight to win, using these strategies.”

Note that the problem is very real and has consequences. There’s also an appreciation – and not fear – of its magnitude: “it’s amazing.” Finally, the strategy is self-determined, and shows critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

When people see you identify the problem, seek to solve it with a realistic approach and concede that it isn’t easy: they like you and they even forgive you, if it’s had a cost to them. The investor research shows that as long as a CEO lays out the situation, understands what the causal factors are and shows that those factors are now controllable: he or she keeps the job. In fact, investors will keep the faith, even invest more and have more patience with the return.

As a potential employee or consultant – or one already hired – you are considered an investment. Treat the recruiter or your superiors as valued investors. They deserve your honesty and you deserve a chance to succeed.


Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen

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