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Presenting Your Professional Weaknesses in an Interview

Posted by Elaine Varelas  March 27, 2013 10:00 AM

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Q. If asked about my greatest weakness, what is your opinion of using this for an answer
"My education, I know I'm competing against candidates that have their Masters or CPA. I plan on going back to get my master or CMA as I would like to continue to advance in my career."

A. Anticipating questions which will be asked in an interview and preparing effective responses can be an important differentiator for job seekers. Plan on being asked things like, ‘tell me about yourself’, ‘what was your compensation?’, ‘what are your strengths?’, and the always challenging ‘what are your weaknesses?’ Not being prepared for this question shows a lack of planning for the interview, and can lead you to stumble into areas you do not want to speak about.
Everyone has weaknesses, and interviewers want to know that you are able to identify your own weaknesses because it implies an ability for introspection, and a desire to work on developmental areas as you grow in your career. Most career experts agree that you should prepare answers for two areas of weakness. Only offer the first weakness when asked the direct question, and offer a second weakness only when pushed for another. Weaknesses can not be career ending fatal flaws that would affect your ability to succeed on the job, nor can they be the meaningless “I am a perfectionist”. Generate a list of weaknesses you could choose from. These ideas may come from past performance reviews and comments from colleagues or friends. Identify a weakness you feel comfortable admitting to, and have shown some real growth and personal investment toward addressing. One weakness should be work style oriented (delegation, communication), and one should be work skill (technology, financial) oriented. None of the weaknesses you offer should be based in the core area of your work.
Your statement needs to include what your weakness is, how it impacted your work life and the concrete actions you took to develop it into a strength. Your stated weakness is lacking a degree or certification , and you are not taking any action to improve your status – a plan is not a current action. You can strengthen this answer by personalizing the information along the lines of “I saw a need to be more metrics focused in my role and to be able to present data effectively. I took an online excel course, then a second level course, and I am now able to use data to help my team understand the challenges we faced and to show them visually how their actions can positively impact the business.”

Practice these statements out loud. In the interview don’t rush to answer the question. Take some time to think about it, and make sure your answer is and presents in a genuine fashion.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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