One of the more frequent questions you are likely to encounter in job interviews, "tell me about a significant weakness that impacts your job performance" deserves special attention. Not only because it's common, but because there are two fairly common pieces of really bad advice that job seekers frequently hear about how to best answer this question. Those two pieces of bad advice are:
1. Deny that you have any weaknesses that could possibly impact your job. If pressed, be evasive: "I'm sorry, I'm just drawing a blank here."
2. Take a strength and pretend it's a weakness. "I would have to say perfectionism is my biggest weakness. Everything I do, I give 150% effort."
These aren't just bad answers; they insult the intelligence of the person interviewing you. So, how do you answer this question? There is no off-the-shelf answer. Here's what makes for a good answer:
1. Honesty shows. It will be quite obvious whether your answer to this question is honest. So, be prepared to share an answer that is sincere.
2. Relevant, but not too relevant. The ideal answer has some bearing on your work life, otherwise your answer is irrelevant, and suggests that you aren't sharp enough to recognize that. But, it should be something that has a significant, negative impact on your work performance.
3. Something you ave worked on. You can turn your answer -- the admission of a real fault -- into a success story. If you can explain how you have tackled the problem and made progress.
Let's look at an example. We'll use Heather, a hypothetical accountant, who is quite introverted. Asked by an interviewer what weaknesses she's struggled with in her career, here's what Heather has to say:
"Shyness. Believe it or not (chuckling), I am a pretty shy person by nature. I chose accounting as a career path because I anticipated being able to work alone. Which is generally true, and my shyness has never compromised my ability to be an excellent accountant. But I wanted more human contact, and I wanted to advance in my career, into management. A friend suggested that toastmasters would offer some good practice at opening up, so I joined a local chapter. I still attend regularly. It hasn't turned me into a social butterfly, but I can honestly say that I feel a lot more comfortable opening up around strangers, and I'm proud of the progress I've made."