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What are your weaknesses?

Codeground online testing platform asked on Nov 08, 2016 - 3 answers

I think you are asking about an interview question. Correct?

You must approach this from a Recruiter’s perspective. The reason this question is asked is to see if a candidate actually has the ability to introspect and identify flaws. Because identifying flaws in yourself is the first and most important step. Fixing them is easier.

Most often, people flock to the well known and used answer of “My biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist”.

There are a few reasons why this answer doesn’t bode well for many interviewees. One reason is that it is completely overused and unoriginal. Another is that it is an answer that is designed to try to make you look good and the person interviewing you can see right through this!

How can you answer this:

There is no definite way of answering this question. Just make sure that your answer is honest, shows self- introspection and includes a story of self improvement. This way whoever is asking the question knows that you have really spent time reflecting on your abilities and flaws. In addition this shows, that you take initiative and have began a journey with positive indications of self-improvement.

Let’s talk about it in detail:

Choosing a weakness:

This is the first and most important step to make your answer look genuine and acceptable. Therefore choose an answer that is:

  • Obvious and has been noticed by the interviewer already: “English is not my primary language. My spoken English is not very good.” or “I haven’t had much work experience.”
  • Something that is NOT extremely crucial for the role that you are applying for:

For a Finance Role: “I am not very good at interacting with people and I am socially awkward.”

For a Sales & Marketing Role: “I have always performed poorly in Mathematics. Trigonometry and Calculus are just not my cup of tea.”

  • A common human failure that is shared by most people: “I find it hard to say no to people” or “I have not really made the most of the opportunities that life has given me”
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replied on Nov 09, 2016
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In addition to the previous comment, I would add that, as for all the fit interview questions, it would be important to have a proper structure to apply in the answer. A good framework for the classical “Which are your three top weaknesses” would be the following:

  1. Say which is a "good" weakness, that is, a weakness which is not a red flag (you may also use terminology as “One of my points of improvement”, instead of “My first weakness is” to soften it a bit);
  2. Say what you are doing to improve on it, giving a concrete example (eg, don’t simply say “I am working on it”, but rather “I am doing XYZ and ABC in order to get better in this”).

Choosing the right words, this framework could help you to deliver a good impression and show proactivity for several weaknesses. Let's make an example for someone who would actually consider himself/herself a perfectionist, using though different words and this structure:

One of my point of improvement is that sometimes I tend to dig into too many details in a particular task, eg for something that may be done in 1h at "ok" level, I may spend 1h30m or 2h, trying to cover more details. That’s not always the best thing to do.

There is something that I am doing to improve on that. Every day, before going to sleep, I write down the three top things I should do the next day, allocating the time to do them. When I am in the middle of the first thing I would naturally have the tendency to be willing to spend more time than the one allocated. However, since I committed to do other things in advance, this often allows me to stick to the time committed. I still have to improve on it, but I am confident I can get better in the next months applying this method.

The main issue for many candidates would be to identify the weakness to use at point 1. So, how can you find a proper weakness?

The best way to find a “good” weakness is to avoid standard answers (so yes, it would be better not to use the previous one either;)). Rather, it would be more useful to go through the following approach to identify real weaknesses:

  1. Write down a list of all your weaknesses.
  2. Eliminate those who would be clear red flags in consulting (all those you may not be able to change quickly or ever – eg no fluency in a certain language, no strong education background/ relevant experience - or clear problems in consulting – eg missing deadlines, poor communication with teammates, not being on time).
  3. Think how you could actually improve on the remaining. Select the best three and apply the previous structure.

This should allow you to have “natural” weaknesses to use, which would also show personal improvement.

Hope this can be helpful.



B replied on Mar 25, 2019
McKinsey cases only

I think you should really point out to a weakness, be honest, tell them how that messed with you at some point in your life, and what have you done so far to fix it. Too often people try to make themselves victim heroes in their stories, and that won't fly with an interviewer. Own up to the mistake and mention the progress you have made so far to address and how you have learned from it and it made you the person you are right now.

This approach never fails

B replied on Mar 19, 2019
McKinsey cases only

how to balance between looking modest and arrogant? If one tells a tale of leadership where selfishness and ego are flashed, then interviewer won't be impressed.. how to navigate through that?

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