Q: Al, I really enjoyed ur speech at the 4-H conference. u are funny! How do u answer the question “what are ur weaknesses?” when u r in an interview? —student at 4-H conference
Thanks for the love! Answering that question isn’t as tricky as it might seem. First of all, leave the slick stuff at the door. Be real.
Once when I was a chef, I was interviewing this guy for a position in a restaurant I was running. I liked the guy until we got to the part of the interview where I said, “Tell me about your weaknesses.”
He responded, “You know…I just work too hard. I never want to go home.”
Is that a real weakness? No. It’s was just a slick answer.
I chuckled, paused, and said, “Cool. I like people who like to grind. But seriously, what’s one of your weaknesses.”
“Well…sometimes I just don’t know when to leave. You might catch me in the kitchen even when I’m off the clock.”
Another slick answer. Grrr…
“Cute. Look man you and I both know that ain’t no weakness. So, are you going to be straight up or what?”
“I’m telling you man, those are my main weaknesses. I just…”
I cut him off mid-sentence. “Thanks for your time, but you’re not what I’m looking for.”
Leave the slick stuff at the door or you’ll be headed for the door. Quickly.
To answer that question the right way, think of a real weakness and something that you do to manage it. (You should do this the night BEFORE your interview.)
For example, the guy could have easily said, “My baking skills need work. I’m great at the saute station, but I haven’t had a lot of experience with baking. I’m willing to learn, but I think I would do much better in a different area of the kitchen.”
Since he wasn’t interviewing to be a pâtissier (pastry chef) that answer would have been fine. Here’s another example using a challenging area for me:
“An area I definitely struggle with at times is organization and dealing with the small details. I tend to focus on the big picture and the end goal so, I have to create small action steps, automatic reminders, and to-do lists or I will overlook small, but important details until it’s too late.”
Remember, you, the interviewer, and everybody else knows that nobody is perfect. When you are asked that question, it’s not because people want to trip you up. It’s because they want to know who you are. So, just answer in a way that shows that you’re authentic, aware of what you need to do to improve, and that your weakness won’t keep you from getting the job done.
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