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How To Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths In The Job Application Process

By Scott Van Heurck - 24 Jan, 2019

What are your Weaknesses?”

“There it is… that question I was hoping they weren’t going to ask… heart rate increasing, sweaty palms, mind completely blank… where is the nearest exit?!”

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If the above scenario is familiar to you, you are not alone! Many job candidates are unsure how to approach this question and can go from answering questions confidently throughout the entire interview only to turn into a stumbling mess as soon as the word “Weaknesses” leaves the interviewers lips.

APPLICATION STAGE

It’s not only in the interview stage that this type of question is asked. Think about jobs requiring responses to Selection Criteria, for example “Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to overcome it.” The STAR method is useful when responding to Selection Criteria, and in fact can be used to address any requirements for a job in a cover letter.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result

Situation – The context of your experience – where did it occur and what was the relevant environment (e.g. in your current role during a major project)

Task – What was required of you? This may have been a technical performance, project, or dealing with a problem.

Action – Most important step – focus on this in your answers. What action did you take to deliver the task, resolve the problem or present a case?

Result – What was the outcome and how did your actions affect this positive result?

There is an optional step at the end of this STAR method: Learning. What did you learn from this process? What did you overcome? What weakness did you turn into a strength?

AT THE INTERVIEW

Once your resume has made it through the sea of resumes to interview stage, your recruiter is bound to ask this “What are your weaknesses?” question during your interview. And it’s completely reasonable. No candidate is perfect, and it’s only fair that your interviewer knows how you handle being put on the spot and how you answer difficult questions, as well as seeing if you can identify your strengths and your stretches, and what steps you have taken to improve your stretches.

(And, no, you can’t give a cop-out weakness like “I’m not a morning person” or give the absolute worst response: “I have no weaknesses”).

So, here’s the game plan:

  1. Be prepared. Have a list of at least 3 weaknesses that you’ll be able to call upon when this question is asked.
  2. Don’t Self Sabotage. Be sure that this weakness does not hinder your ability to do the job or to fit in with the employer.
  3. Be honest and upfront. Don’t dance around the weakness or sugar-coat it. Just tell it like it is. Use the STAR method discussed above to structure your response. Having awareness of areas requiring improvement is a valuable quality to have – without this awareness there would be no room for growth and improvement.
  4. Tell a story. Use this question to your advantage and get creative with how you answer it. Relate it to a past experience in the workplace, and what lesson you learned from it. This is the start of recovering your weakness positively. Remember to keep it relevant and brief!
  5. Turn it around into a strength. Show the positive side of your weakness, below are some examples of how you can do this:

Examples of “weaknesses” turned into strengths

  • Works too quickly = Efficient
  • Little experience = Eager to learn
  • Control Freak = Willing to take on large responsibilities
  • Sensitive = Appreciative toward the needs of co-workers
  • Perfectionist = Detail focused

SUMMARY

The main thing to remember at any stage of the job application or recruitment process is to be honest (without throwing yourself under the bus). Honestly answering responses to questions about yourself during initial application stage, during the interview and once you have the job will save embarrassment and will ensure you don’t have explaining to do when the truth comes out. Keep in mind that your ‘weakness’ will be another person’s strength, as long as you show willingness to learn, grow and improve you will be set for success.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Amy Milnes is the Founder and Owner of Wise Owl Resumes & Business Solutions, a resume business based in Perth, Western Australia.

Wise Owl Resumes offers a range of career building services including Resumes, Cover Letters, LinkedIn Profiles, Career Coaching and more. Check out more online: Website

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