Why do employers ask about your greatest weaknesses in job interviews? It isn’t because they’re dying to hear you talk about how obsessed you are with work and having everything be perfect. What they really want is a skills assessment about you, from you.
Some people could argue that you really need to tell them what your weakness is, so that they and you can get a realistic view of whether or not you’re a good fit for the job. After all, it wouldn’t be a good idea to end up in a job that isn’t a good fit, right? Poor choices in jobs have resulted in firings, layoffs, and awkward situations to explain later.
I say something a little different. I say that your job in that interview is to sell yourself for the position. You don’t need them to decide that you aren’t a good fit. You are the one who needs to decide if you’re a good fit or not. You need that freedom of getting that job offer so you can make the decision that’s best for you.
So what does that mean? Does that mean that you are better off denying that you have any weaknesses at all? No. What it means is that just as you do with every other job interview answer, you need to be strategic.
Being strategic with this answer means that as much as possible, name a real weakness of yours that translates into a strength for this job (or at the very least, a neutral).
For instance, I always chose impatience as my weakness. It is a true weakness, and it has caused me trouble in my personal relationships (just ask my family). However, since I was always in sales roles, that same impatience caused me to actively go after sales (because I couldn’t stand waiting for them). As a result, I was more successful in my job.
An accountant may say that shyness is their weakness, and that’s why they prefer working with numbers (this would be a neutral). Someone else may say that they get frustrated by people who don’t work as hard as they do. This communicates that you are someone who works hard and is dedicated without veering into perfectionist territory.
Naming a weakness that is also a strength in the job is also a skills assessment. It’s just a smarter, more strategic one that helps you to sell yourself for the job.