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Sitting in an interview is never easy. You know the drill: You answer a couple of common interview questions you were readily prepared for, receive an encouraging nod from your prospective new boss, and then you’re hit with everyone’s least favorite question: “What is your biggest weakness?”

You freeze. How are you supposed to answer a question like this?

While it’s an awkward question, interviewers have a good reason for asking it. They want to “assess if you are self-aware and can thoughtfully articulate your areas of opportunity,” says Mary Ryan, associate director of career and leadership for working professionals at MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program. “Your answer is also an easy way to determine if you can give a genuine answer to an uncomfortable question or have a weakness that would be a deal-breaker for the job at hand.”

In a guest post on the MBA@UNC blog, Ryan writes about how to effectively answer the question, “What is your biggest weakness?” She provides six dos and don’ts that candidates should take into consideration when developing their responses to this tricky query.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t answer with a weakness in an area that is essential to the job you want. The interviewer will think you are wasting their time.
  2. Don’t say a negative that is really a positive. If you say “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard,” it will seem like you either lack depth or are trying to avoid the question altogether.
  3. Don’t respond with a weakness that is too personal or irrelevant. Answering this way could cause your interviewer to feel uncomfortable.
  4. Don’t say, “I don’t know.” Not only will it seem like you are unprepared, but you will also look like you don’t care and lack introspection.

Dos:

  1. Do delve into why you would be great at this particular job instead of in anyother role, based on your strengths and weaknesses. Ryan suggests determining why you are excited about the job and why you are the perfect candidate for it. Then, compare that to jobs you don’t think would be a great fit. You can then transform the contrast between the two into your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Do explain a real weakness of yours that you are already working on addressing. According to Ryan, authenticity is key.

Next time you’re prepping for a job interview, take some time to compose a thoughtful answer to the question, “What is your biggest weakness?” Your response could make or break your next job opportunity.



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