Mastering the "what's your weakness" interview questions

Okay, imagine you're interviewing for your dream job, and it's going well. It's clear the hiring manager loves you. You got this!

But then they ask: "What are your weaknesses?"

You struggle to come up with an answer that doesn't make you look bad. But you're drawing a blank. You knew this standard questions was coming. But until now, you had no idea how hard it would be to answer.

Don't let this happen! At Jump Start, we recommend you have a weakness ready to go before you set foot in an interview.

You only need one weakness. And is should be a positive weakness - a weakness that shows off your strengths.

Here are examples of positive weaknesses:

The Responsibility Weakness

“As a responsible person, I tend to take on more work to help others out. I’ll always get the job done no matter how much is on my plate, but it can sometimes leave me feeling overwhelmed. I've learned along the way that taking on too much responsibility is, in itself, irresponsible. Especially when you're part of a team. Knowing this about myself, I’ve gotten better at saying “no” to tasks that really aren’t mine to take on."

This answer conveys the person has a solid work ethic, is helpful, eager and gets the job done. It also shows the person is making positive changes to overcome this weakness.

 The Achiever Weakness

“As an achiever, there are times I struggle with work/life balance. I’ll work late to get a few more things crossed off my to-do list. As a result, I've been late to a number of social activities in my personal life. What I’ve learned is it’s best for me to have a stable work/life balance. And so, I strive to leave at 6:00PM each day unless, I need to stay late to complete an urgent task. It takes discipline for me to step away and come back fresh but it's worth it.”

 This positive weakness shows you’re a hard worker, you will stay late to get work done and that you know the importance of striving for a healthy work/life balance.

 The Avid Learner Weakness

“As an avid learner, there are times when I don’t think I have enough information to get started on a project. I’ll continue researching even when I probably have enough. I’ve gotten much better at overcoming this by stopping myself and making an outline of all the information I’ve collected. Doing this step  shows me I’m ready to dive into the project."

This positive weakness lets the hiring manager know you don't rush into projects. You value research and planning, and you have the confidence and experience to start a project even in the face of a few unknowns. 

 Formulate your positive weakness in five steps:

  1. Pick one of your strengths
  2. Come up with a REAL example of how it backfired 
  3. Describe what you’ve done and are doing to overcome it. Details!
  4. Write out your answer and practice out loud.  
  5. Keep it real. Your hiring manager will know if you're making it up.  

Boost Your Executive Presence to Advance Your Career

What is Executive Presence?

Have you ever walked into a room full of people and felt immediately drawn to a person who is extremely engaging and genuine, intelligent and articulate, confident and positive?

Often referred to as the "it" factor, Executive Presence (EP) is the sum of all these qualities. Some say it's hard to define but you know it when you see it.

A person with Executive Presence:

  • Exudes self-confidence
  • Has high Emotional Intelligence
  • Stays composed and in control under pressure
  • Is influential and holds her/his own with other leaders
  • Makes tough decisions in timely manner
  • Has excellent speaking and listening skills
  • Has deep business acumen
  • Excels at establishing and maintaining relationships
  • Has a polished, professional appearance
  • Operates with an optimistic mindset open to opportunities and solutions

A study done by Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 268 senior executives on the importance of having EP. Results showed that EP counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.


Can EP be developed?

The answer is "yes" according to John Beeson of Beeson Consulting. He says you can develop EP " if you have a baseline of self-confidence and willingness to deal with unpredictable situations that go with the territory at the executive level."

Teri Citterman, author of "From the CEO's Perspective" says: "EP is how you manage your assertiveness and diplomacy in professional situations. It's a skill that can be learned and starts with an understanding of your confidence level. It requires intention and practice."


How to develop EP

  • Get honest feedback on your level of confidence from 2-3 trusted people. Then take their feedback and make improvements where necessary.
  • Hone your presentation skills - consider joining Toastmasters
  • Identify your talents and abilities and leverage them
  • Manage what you say and how you say it
  • Utilize Emotional Intelligence
  • Dress the part of the executive
  • Seek out a coach or mentor to assist you

Know that EP looks different from one person to another. There is no one-size-fits-all. Use that knowledge to develop your own personalized EP.

Commit to cultivating your EP, beginning today. With practice and mindful awareness, you can improve how you present yourself to others so they see you as the leader you strive to be.

“Tell Me About Yourself” - How To Successfully Answer that Dreaded Interview Question

The first question you're probably going to get asked in an interview is “ Tell Me About Yourself”.

It’s that “ice breaker” question that seems easy enough to answer yet causes many unprepared candidates to ramble on about their life’s story. And be assured, the hiring manager isn’t interested in hearing your life’s story.

What the hiring manager wants to hear is a summary of what you’ve done in your career, why you’re applying for the job, what you bring to the organization as well as how you articulate this.It’s the monologue that gives insight into who you are and provides information that allows for probing questions. It’s your opportunity to tell the interviewer about your competencies, motivation and why you’d be a good fit for the job and company.

So when crafting your answer, highlight your accomplishments, experiences, and talents that relate to the job and set you apart from the competition. Be sure to let your personality and character shine and show your enthusiasm for the job.

Ok- so how do you do that? What’s the best way to answer this question?

Here’s the 5-step process I walk my clients through:

Step 1 - Review the job posting and any other available information to gain an understanding of the position and what skills and abilities the ideal candidate must possess.

Step 2 - List at least 3-4 of your key accomplishments, successes, and career highlights that relate to the job description and show your value.

Step 3 - Add in several of your unique strengths, skills or experiences that are relevant to the job description and make you memorable.

Step 4 - Now blend your answers from Steps 2 and 3 making sure you frame it as to how you will bring your accomplishments and talents to help the organization solve their problems and achieve goals. (Remember it’s about what you can do for the company not what the company can do for you.)

Step 5 - Practice, practice, practice! You want to practice your answer so it flows off your lips and you deliver it with confidence, authenticity and ease. I recommend you either practice in front of a mirror or role-play with another person to get it right. Your answer should be approximately 250-300 words and take no longer than 3 minutes to deliver.

*Remember, Be Yourself! In addition to your competency, the hiring manager is assessing your fit in the team so, allow your answer to reflect YOU.