“What is your greatest weakness?”

Something about this question compels our brains to launch the most insane responses out as quickly as possible, as a self-defense reaction. Perhaps, you reason, if you answer quickly enough, the interviewer won’t notice that you have just degenerated into an incoherent awkward preteen. Despite any previously displayed eloquence, your answer to this question could make you look like a complete fool. Forever.

No pressure.

What about this question makes it so difficult? Because this question is impossible to BS your way through. Because this question forces us to be brutally introspective. Because it requires preparation not to muck it up. It’s also a thoroughly uncomfortable question. No one enjoys dwelling on their own shortcomings, much less getting dressed up to disclose them to a complete stranger while being critically judged.

So, what is the best way to tackle this question? The internet has a wide range of recommendations. Many are terrible. Let’s explore.

Disguise one of your strengths as a weakness. I am a perfectionist, and I’ll spend a great amount of energy making sure every little thing is up to my amazing standards. This is a stupid idea. Would you be friends with someone who said that? No. And you wouldn’t hire anyone who said that, either.

Just be honest! I am inconsiderate and careless. I don’t follow logic very well, and I refuse to take direction. Oh, and I hate bathing. I’m here to tell you: it is entirely possible to be too honest in some situations. This is one of those situations. You don’t want to overshare on a first date, do you? Same logic here. You want to present the best version of yourself, so let’s not get carried away.

Choose a very specific weakness that has no direct relation to the job. Weakness? Oh, that’s easy. I’m just terrible at the Cortana mission in Halo 3. It’s just such a confusing layout, you know what I mean? Yeah, so the reason interviewers ask this question to get a sense of what you’d find challenging in the role you’re interviewing for. I know that many interviewers seem like they really want to get to know you. That's because most human beings are generally awesome people. But guess what? Companies don’t actually care about weaknesses that have no bearing on the work that you’d be doing, regardless of how interesting a person you are.

So, what is the best way to prepare for this question? Obviously, there are elements of the above that are sound. Really have a strong sense of your abilities, and have a keen understanding of what the job requires. It is also important to emphasize that your so-called weakness is something you’ve developed an action plan for, and you are actively working on it.

This question is an opportunity to demonstrate exceptional self awareness. Knowing your strengths is a good place to start when identifying your opportunity areas. Naturally, if you are a detail-oriented person, you may not be as strong when it comes to taking in the bigger picture.

This is where pymetrics can help you out. Check out your trait report, and choose a few traits that might apply to the position in question.

For instance, check out one of my social traits: Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 10.02.58 AM

I recover fairly well from mistakes, which is a great attribute for many highly visible, client facing positions, such as sales, business development or consulting. However, I could stand to get more out of my mistakes by using them as learning opportunities.

“I don’t get flustered easily; when things go wrong, I tend to recover quickly. However, I am working on better using any mistakes as opportunities to improve things moving forward. I’m careful to recap my client meetings to document what I can do better next time. This approach has helped me to constantly improve.”

Super easy, right? pymetrics is here to help!

What other ways have you used your trait report to help you out in interviews? We’d love to hear it!

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