How to handle the interview question: “What are your weaknesses?”

Published: 15 Aug 2017 By Farhan Raja

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Farhan Raja, founder of Job Interviewology, offers his interview tips for PR professionals


What are your weaknesses? It’s one of the most common questions that come up time and again in PR job interviews, and it’s one we all dread! An interview is all about demonstrating your brilliance but this question is making you do the exact opposite - talk about confusing! If there was ever a question that epitomises being stuck between a rock and a hard place, this is it. 

The outdated cliché approach

A popular way around this question is to state a strength as a weakness instead. You know, “I work too hard” or “I’m sometimes too passionate”. While this might seem like the perfect option, these types of responses tend to fall into the realm of interview clichés. Believe me – despite the interviewer being all smiles when listening to such a response, inside they’re desperately trying not to roll their eyes. 


The right mindset 

It helps to consider why they are asking this question in the first place. In my experience, it’s firstly to see how you manage to navigate such a tricky question and think critically about yourself. Secondly, it’s to see your reaction. The interviewer wants to see if you panic, become nervous or get flustered. Regardless of how you answer, it’s paramount that you maintain the same level of confidence, poise and positivity as you would for any other question.

How to give a strong answer in a genuine, positive and sincere way… without the clichés!

1. Make a list of specific weaknesses
Instead of writing “lazy” write “slow to respond to emails”. Once you have your list, it’s now time to think which weaknesses will have the least negative impact for the particular job you’re interviewing for.

2. Be empathic

Example 1:

If you’re an account executive who is a little shy when it comes to public speaking, you could talk about this as a weakness and potential area for development, as it’s likely to have very little impact on the core skills required to do the job. At the same time, it offers a genuine weakness. In this instance, you make yourself relatable, so they can actually empathise with you in a positive way.

Example 2:

For a head of public relations role, think about your weaknesses that will have the least negative impact. You could mention you’re not the best when it comes to staying on top of your admin. No company is going to hire a head of PR with fantastic administrative skills but lacks a clear vision and strategy, no more than they would hire an account executive or manager who is terrible at engaging with clients, but a fantastic public speaker. 


3. Explain how you’ve identified your weakness and what you’ve done to resolve it

For an account executive whose weakness is public speaking, you could say:

“It’s something I’m aware of and I’ve been practising a range of visualisation techniques prior to going into meetings. This has given me a lot of confidence and I’ve actually improved significantly over the last year”.

For a head of public relations whose weakness is admin-related, you could say:

“It’s something I’ve continuously been working on and I always keep in mind that the quicker I can get it done and dusted the more time it will free up to focus on more business critical tasks”.

To recap:

  • Ensure you speak with the same level of confidence you’ve shown with the other questions
  • Make a list of weaknesses and give specific examples
  • Mention the weakness on your list that has the least negative impact for the role that you’re interviewing for
  • Tell them you’re aware of the weakness and steps you’re taking to improve

Job Interviewology provides specialist one-to-one interview coaching, courses and careers-related services. Whether you are an experienced PR professional or a graduate, interview coaching can help you become the strongest version of yourself and empower you to achieve your career goals and ambitions. 

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