Over the years I’ve helped many people prepare for an interview, and what I find is that most of them are nervous about what type of questions will be asked and how the answers they give will be received. Typically, we cover this by working through their STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Results) stories and reinforcing their confidence with their answers through practicing with mock interviews. That process works very well and should be part of every job seeker’s approach.
Additionally, however, we’ve found that many common interview questions are not behavioral in nature and are not answered best with the STAR structure (although I would contend it’s a great foundation for every answer), and people need to be prepared to answer them. Over the next couple months, we’re going to be diving deep into some of those common interview questions to try and provide some insights to help you better prepare for when they come your way.
The Dreaded Interview Question
We’re going to start with perhaps the most hated interview question I’ve encountered that goes something like this, “I’d like you to tell me what you consider to be one of your weaknesses.” Or it may be phrased as, “Tell me about an area you’re challenged with.”
Why is this question asked? What is the interviewer trying to achieve? The most common rationale I’ve heard for this question is that the interviewer wants to tap into the candidate’s self-awareness. We know people aren’t strong at everything, so let’s find out what this candidate believes is his/her personal weakness/challenge. While I’m not a fan of using this question as an interviewer, because I think people can make things up here that don’t offer the interviewer any way to substantiate, I’ve found it’s used by a lot of interviewers and dreaded by interviewees.
What The Bible Says About Weaknesses
The Bible has quite a bit to say about weaknesses, the most well-known passage perhaps in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – – “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I also love the promise given to us in Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Now, I’m not recommending you quote Scripture to the interviewer about strength in weakness; however, as with many Scriptures, the principles from them can be thoughtfully applied through our conversations and actions. In this case, as an interviewee, one can take heart and generate confidence in God’s promises that He can accomplish anything through us that He wants. After all, He made us, and He can use our shortfalls and weaknesses to magnify Himself in ways we may not even think possible.
In addition to one’s confidence, the Apostle Paul makes it clear he doesn’t shy away from weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties because he knows God can use any of those! So, for me, the application is that we don’t need to be hesitant in admitting our weaknesses…everyone has some, and we can be just as forthright about them as we are with our strengths.
Be Authentic and Specific
The key to answering the interview question about our weaknesses is to be authentic and specific. Giving an overused answer like “I’m an impatient person” or “I’m a perfectionist” is not the answer the interviewer is seeking. They are looking for you to share something about yourself that isn’t where you would want it to be, or something that’s been noticed by others as an area for improvement. They’re looking for self-awareness and action you’re taking to compensate for, or make advances in, the area you describe as a weakness.
On one level, it almost doesn’t matter what the weakness is, as long as it is authentic and specific. However, saying, “I have trouble paying attention to detail” when you’re applying for an accounting position wouldn’t be advised. 🙂 But to say, “I tend to get in a hurry to get things done, and I have a tendency to miss some details” could work when it’s followed also with, “I have learned, and am still implementing, a careful self-review doesn’t take much time and pretty much mitigates the risk of what I’ve missed the first time.” So, you’ve been authentic, specific, and you described an action you’ve taken to compensate for the weakness.
Another example I found in a useful Indeed article (Linked HERE) said, “My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have trouble saying ‘no’ to requests and end up taking on more than I can handle. In the past, this has led me to feel stressed or burnt out. To help myself improve in this area, I use a project management app so I can visualize how much work I have at any given moment and know whether or not I have the bandwidth to take on more.”
To prepare for this question, I’d encourage you to take 60 seconds and just write down whatever comes to mind as to your potential weaknesses. Then pick 2-3 and start to play around with how you could answer the question authentically and specifically with a compensating action included. Over the course of a week, see what else comes to mind as you fine tune your answer. If you can run it by a few friends, that would be helpful as well!
In summary, be confident with your weaknesses. God knows what they are, and He still loves you and I beyond what we can imagine. Like the Apostle Paul, let’s share them confidently knowing He can use them in amazing ways! Blessings!
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.