Call it a classic or a worn out cliché, but despite its problems, this old chestnut still seems to appear over
and over in the interview setting: "What would you consider your greatest weakness?"
The question is impossible to answer honestly, of course. Even if candidates know exactly what their
"greatest weakness" is, they're wise not to share and discuss it during a job interview. So most people
answer with an avoidant dodge like "I work too hard" or "I care too much".
But regardless of what you choose to say aloud, when you're presented with this question, do you know
the real answer? Have you given this puzzle some serious thought and self-reflection? If you've never
honestly assessed your skills and strengths and taken a close, hard look at the lowest item on the list,
now may be a good time to tackle this task. Doing so can only help you become a better employee and
stronger professional. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.
The word "intelligence" helps us categorize an infinite field of humanity and make sense of a sea of
unknown and knowable faces. Like "attractiveness", it helps us label and file each other away like so
many neatly organized manila folders. But as most of us eventually come to recognize, a person who
seems attractive on the surface may not be so flawless after all. And by the same token, "intelligence" is
a deceptive and mostly meaningless term. Every person in the world is intelligent in some areas and a
simpleton in others. And when we start learning a new and unfamiliar skill set, we all start out at the
very bottom rung of the ladder.
But here's how the term becomes useful: When we start learning a given skill set at the bottom rung,
some of us zip up the ladder quickly, and others struggle. A person who zips up the "public speaking"
ladder like a monkey may stumble and struggle with "playing the piano" or "managing a budget". Which
ladders do you find the easiest to climb? And which ones seem to exact the highest toll and the greatest
effort for very meager rewards?
Identify Your Toughest Ladder
It would be lovely to spend your entire working day scrambling around on the highest rungs of the
ladders that you find easiest to climb. If you excel at scheduling, writing, or managing data, and you're
lucky enough to spend your days doing only these things, good for you. But sooner or later you may
have to face those other ladders, the ones you would rather avoid for the rest of your life.
So try this exercise: identify the skill set that haunts you the most, the one you usually hand off to
someone else—anyone else. Each day, read at least one or two articles that address this skill deficit and
help you overcome it. When you're ready, start putting what you're learning into actual practice. Each
day, spend a few minutes thinking about this challenge and putting your thoughts into action. Then start
taking your skill out into the world. Volunteer for public speaking opportunities, ask for leadership
assignments, or look for ways to perform your growing skill set on stage in front of a crowd (literally or
metaphorically). One year from now, make this your goal: take that "greatest weakness" and turn it into
one of your greatest strengths.
For more on how to tackle and overcome your greatest professional weaknesses, explore the career
management tools available on MyPerfectResume.