What's Your Greatest Weakness?

by | March 10, 2009

  • My Vault
Turning Your Weakness into an Advantage

By Ellis Chase.

Everyone gets the weakness question in interview situations, sooner or later. It can take the form of "What is your greatest weakness?" or "Tell me about what your major work problems have been..." or any of a number of related negative questions.

The key is to always assume a marketing stance in your job search campaign that conveys that YOUR career has predominately included large portions of sunshine and success. There should be no negatives in self-marketing. Many of our Five O'Clock Club clients have felt the impulse to detail all of their failures, problems, personality conflicts, and difficulties in an effort to be "honest." That is the proverbial shot in the foot. Why would you point out your problems, when you could be selling all of your strengths? Or, to put it another way, think of that half full glass (except that you must think of yourself in this effort as being much fuller than half!).

Now that we've discussed the possible cliches (half full glasses and foot-shooting) as a way to persuade you to be relentlessly positive in your presentations, it's necessary to figure out how to specifically answer the weakness questions. The Five O'Clock Club approach (as outlined in Kate Wendleton's Job Search Secrets) is twofold:

  • Stonewalling: You have to be pretty persuasive for this technique. After a good, thoughtful pause, you might say "That's a tough one. I can't think of any particularly issue that's come up over the years. My performance appraisals have been good, and nothing I can think of now has been brought up as a problem..."


  • Turning the negative into a positive: (I like this one better, because it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate an expertise in something, and that's what interviewing should be all about.) Think of something that might have been a minor difficulty a few years back, and how you turned that situation around - and made it into a strength. Don't improvise this one; that could create problems on the interview, if you haven't clearly thought it out beforehand. You need to plan one or two of these before any interview.

Understanding the "weaknesses" issue in interviewing is a key to grasping the larger self-marketing concept necessary for successful job search.

Ellis Chase, an original Five O'Clock Club counselor, is Vault.com's Interviewing Channel Moderator. If you have any interviewing questions, send him a line at Interviewing_Moderator@staff.vault.com.

Filed Under: Interviewing

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