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When an interviewer asks you what areas you need to improve on, she is essentially asking about your weaknesses. Job seekers may be intimidated by this question because they fear that admitting their shortcomings will disqualify them from the hiring process. This commonly asked question is tricky, so you'll need to prepare a response in advance.
Choosing Areas of Improvement
The key to finding an appropriate response is to select a real professional weakness that does not indicate an inability to do the job. For example, if you are applying for an accounting position, saying that you have poor attention to detail might be a deal breaker. Before the interview, examine the job description for the position. Then choose a few weaknesses that do not negatively impact the requirements for the job.
Example of Relatable Weakness
Select areas of improvement that your interviewer can relate to and put a positive spin on your response. For example, everyone gets impatient at some point, even the most personable employee can run into communication problems, and everyone is susceptible to distraction. You might say: “I would like to improve on my organizational and time management skills. Sometimes I tackle so many tasks at once that I’m not able to finish each one as effectively as I would like. Since recognizing that weakness, I’ve taken steps to improve it by creating a spreadsheet to plan and keep track of my assignments.”
Addressing the Main Concern
According to the CareerCast website, interviewers ask about your weaknesses because they want to reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person. You can respond in a way that eases their concern about you. You might say that you are not perfect, but based on your understanding of the job requirements, you are certain you are a good fit. Then say you are confident that you can get through the learning curve quickly and become an asset to the company. Next, do a comparison to demonstrate what area you are most comfortable working in. For example: “If I had to choose between a position that requires a lot of research and one that deals with mainly surface data, I would pick research because I am stronger in that area.”
Refrain from giving generic responses, such as “too hardworking,” “too detail-oriented” or “I’m a perfectionist.” Your interviewer might discourage such responses by phrasing his inquiry differently from “What are your weaknesses?” Instead, he might ask for an area you are working to improve on, or what your manager would say if he called him and asked what areas you could improve on. Avoid phrases that suggest you have many weaknesses, such as “My worst weakness” or “My biggest fault.” These responses may indicate that you have a string of issues to overcome.
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- Forbes: How To Answer The Dreaded 'What Is Your Biggest Weakness' Interview Question
- Career Confidential: Job Interview Question What's Your Greatest Weakness?
- HCareers: 3 Uncomfortable Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
- CareerCast: Handling the "What Are Your Weaknesses" Question in a Job Interview
- CBS News: How to Answer the 5 Toughest Interview Questions You'll Face
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.
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