The bane of every job seeker’s existence is the greatest weakness interview question. Even if the question isn’t going to be asked, a candidate will invariably prepare for it. That being the case, it’s not altogether a bad idea to be ready for the question because – like it or not – thinking this way helps you to prepare for any interview.
The point of an interview is to get to know someone. Who are they? What makes them tick? What are they interested in? What are they not interested in? What experiences make them a valuable asset to your organization? And maybe, most importantly, what traits could be deemed a risk? Can you trust them?
Trust, after all, is one of the main qualities that you look for in a candidate. You don’t need to trust them with your family, but you need to trust them to perform up to your company’s standards. In this day of remote and hybrid workplaces, it is absolutely essential to be able to hire someone that you can trust to get the job done. This is why the interview process is almost more crucial than ever before. Candidates can hide some of their less desirable traits in remote situations. Are you going to interview via video or in-person? Can you properly gauge someone’s honest response via a video chat? Likely, yes. And there are ways to get to the essence and to know how to hire the right person.
Likewise, there are ways for a candidate to secure a potential employer’s trust. How, you ask? Easy. Just be honest.
How to Spot A Greatest Weakness in Supply Chain Interviews
It goes without saying that the supply chain job market is extremely volatile. The supply chain talent shortage has employers, hiring managers, and recruiters alike scrambling to find enough warm bodies to fill in the staffing gaps. Not only are there not enough people, but there are even fewer fully qualified individuals. Exceptions and compromises are being made in attempts to simply stay fully staffed to meet the spike in consumer purchasing, which has created downstream hurdles when coupled with ever present disruptions like pandemics. Tactical experience is being eschewed for more strategic thinkers who can handle disruptions and are more adept at problem solving. But what kinds of corners are being cut, exactly? A supply chain recruiter recently shared an anecdote about a candidate being turned down for a VP of Logistics position. They presented very well on paper and passed all the smell tests. But, after the first interview, the clients deemed the candidate unfit. The hiring manager cited a difficulty for the candidate to cite personal challenges and admitting where they have weaknesses.
A candidate-driven supply chain job market most definitely gives candidates some leverage. But as we are seeing with this senior logistics position, not every company is lowering their standards when it comes to trust and cultural fit.
A bad answer to a “greatest weakness” interview question
Everybody has that one friend that’s not too accountable for their actions. We all know the person. The one who eats all the cookies and might just blame you for leaving them out. Secretly it could be the guy who eats someone else’s lunch in the break room fridge. This person, it can sometimes be said, lacks accountability and honesty.
There’s an old saying that goes “integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Interviews have a lot to do with this concept. How honest are you about your flaws? Do you own up to mistakes even if no one notices them or do you wait until you’re called out? Are you proactive about flaws or missteps?
The question itself is a bit flawed. After all, it’s not about having a weakness. It’s about measuring accountability and a willingness to improve. The ideal candidate pushes themselves to be better. They focus on their weaknesses and work to improve them. They also understand their limitations and work within them while delegating skills where they may be deficient to other team members.
No one is great at everything. No one hasn’t made mistakes.
Perhaps a better question than greatest weakness is: “if you saw a million dollars of untraceable money on the street and you knew you’d never get caught, what would you do?”
Top 3 Worst Answers to Greatest Weakness
What to say and what not to say in an interview is crucial. It’s also not that easy to figure out. Hopefully, we can provide a little guidance along the way.
“I feel like a very well-rounded person and am able to adapt to most any situation.”
Sure. Yes. A candidate may very well feel this way. But, really? Any situation? You’ve never come across a situation you just couldn’t handle? An answer like this not only suggests dishonesty but a lack of ambition as well. If the candidate is speaking the truth, then they have never sought to challenge themselves or pursue roles that would create difficult situations from which to learn and grow. Is this someone you want on your team?
Alternative: “I am confident in the diversity of my experience but I know that I have so much more to learn. I try not to lean on how much I have done but it doesn’t always happen and sometimes I miss out on an important learning experience.”
“I probably just work too much and don’t know when to stop.”
Well, no one wants a workaholic anymore. Times are changing and bragging about how late you work or how long you’re willing to stay at the office isn’t such an accolade. In truth, all of the work you need to do can be done in an 8 hour day. If it can’t, then the team is too small. Either this person is looking to show off or is not very good at their job. Consider saying instead “I might put a couple extra hours in during the week, but I do my best not to take my job “home” with me.”
“A weakness of mine can be condescension.”
Okay, well, there is a limit to one’s honesty. And if this is your answer, then you are probably not going to get any points for being candid. No one needs a condescending and pretentious person on their team. See above for alternate answers.
…you want to draw on your experience in a thorough and honest manner. How have you approached difficult situations in the past? What are some of your greatest challenges? Have you failed? Sure. We all have. There truly is no success without failure. Talk about that.
Another trick (some should do this with their resumes as well) is to try and use metrics when you can. Your weaknesses will be exposed using numbers. Data cannot be denied. Did the company grow during your tenure? If so, by how much? Could it have been more? Did you improve upon a soft or hard skill during this growth or lack of growth period? How so?
Numbers tell your story in ways that you cannot. Find some. Use them. Let them demonstrate your weaknesses.
Ultimately, there is no such thing as a greatest weakness interview question. That’s not what employers are after when posing this question. They want to know if they can trust you. They want to know if you have drive and initiative to improve. They want to know if you’re accountable for your actions and will self-report mistakes and missteps that are bound to happen along the way. Your honesty will reveal your weaknesses. Let your record speak for itself and be bold and honest about who you are and what you’ve done. If your flaws are not acceptable to this firm, someone else will be just fine with them