Good Responses to Biggest Weakness Questions

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I know that this is a common question. I just wanted to see everybody's opinion on what are good responses and what aren't. One of the answers that I have used before was that my weakness is my passion because I can become overly passionate about what I am doing, like pitching a certain stock, which leads to me not taking criticism very well on that stock. Is this a good answer or a bad answer to give in an interview and why?

Tips for Answering "Biggest Weakness" Interview Question

Most of us have probably been asked " What is your greatest weakness?" during an interview. It is an extremely common interview question, even outside of investment banking.

No Good Answers for "What's your biggest weakness?"

Lets start by eliminating the answers that are no good. These answers are lazy. Worse case scenario 10 other applicants answered the same way. These answers are also hard to expand on in any substantive way. Do not use these answers. You will most likely come across as insincere if you do.

  • "I'm a perfectionist"
  • "I care too much"
  • "I work too hard"
  • "I am too passionate about my work"
  • "My biceps"

Now that we've eliminated your max curl from the list of possible answers lets take a look at some good responses

"Biggest Weakness" Answers

.Your answer should be specific but safe. Your answer should include an example of your specific weakness. However, you should spend minimal time a discussing your weakness. You need to discuss how you address that weakness. Here are some great answers from some of our Certified Users.

I try to be honest. I say that I make a lot of syntactical coding errors. But the mark of a good programmer isn't being free from errors- it's being able to quickly figure out what you screwed up and how to fix it.

A good example of using a unique background to your advantage:

Something along the lines of, "I know the preferred candidate for mostly all open finance careers is a H/S/W finance major with 2-3 internships.... blah blah blah," to which i would then say how my "atypical path allows me a greater appreciation/respect for the work that is involved in turning over a deal/underwriting/trading/etc.

A workplace example:

I might say, "I get a little impatient when things take longer than I think they should. That would be fine, except it turns out the timeline I have in my mind for something is usually pretty optimistic. This is something I'm aware of and working on. So ideally in the future all my expectations would be realistic and I would do a good job of communicating them to the senior guys so there are no surprises."

Preparing for Investment Banking Interviews?

The WSO investment banking interview course is designed by countless professionals with real world experience, tailored to people aspiring to break into the industry. This guide will help you learn how to answer these questions and many, many more.

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Comments (166)

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 7:36pm

Passion is never a weakness. However, I think you can say that you are stubborn because of your passion, which is a definite weakness. Also, remember that no one wants to hire someone with an ego. So if your insecure, your better off studying your technicals inside and out, verses trying to wow your interviewers with a bull shit answer about a weakness that in most cases is a major strength. A weakness is a weakness, period, and it shouldn't be up to discussion of whether it could be a strength or a weakness when you say it. However, you obviously shouldn't be so up front as to say your lazy, but something that isn't too major.

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 8:22pm

The weakness question is just a bullshit test. If you can give them a decent answer then they will check the box next to "ability to bs when necessary" and move on. If you stumble or can't give an an answer, or say something stupid (like your actual weaknesses) then you fail the test and won't get hired.

The specific answer doesn't matter; they don't expect a truthful answer. Just make sure your delivery is good and it's not an incriminating answer.

 
Mar 15, 2009 - 4:26pm

sbmerchant:
The weakness question is just a bullshit test. If you can give them a decent answer then they will check the box next to "ability to bs when necessary" and move on. If you stumble or can't give an an answer, or say something stupid (like your actual weaknesses) then you fail the test and won't get hired.

The specific answer doesn't matter; they don't expect a truthful answer. Just make sure your delivery is good and it's not an incriminating answer.

I couldn't disagree more. They are not looking for bullshit. I had this question a lot and was truthful and honest, which I think helped me get offers.

I do think it's a terrible question though.

"I am too much of a perfectionist" is the exact answer they don't want. I used a real weakness (actually a big weakness) and just focused on how I have worked to correct it, which I think helped. If you bullshit like everyone else, you won't stand out.

 
Mar 15, 2009 - 5:03pm

wookie102:
sbmerchant:
The weakness question is just a bullshit test. If you can give them a decent answer then they will check the box next to "ability to bs when necessary" and move on. If you stumble or can't give an an answer, or say something stupid (like your actual weaknesses) then you fail the test and won't get hired.

The specific answer doesn't matter; they don't expect a truthful answer. Just make sure your delivery is good and it's not an incriminating answer.

I couldn't disagree more. They are not looking for bullshit. I had this question a lot and was truthful and honest, which I think helped me get offers.

I do think it's a terrible question though.

"I am too much of a perfectionist" is the exact answer they don't want. I used a real weakness (actually a big weakness) and just focused on how I have worked to correct it, which I think helped. If you bullshit like everyone else, you won't stand out.

It completely depends on what your actual weakness was.

...what did you say?

 
Dec 8, 2016 - 8:00am

Totally agree with wookie102 that they are not looking for bullshit. I do think it is a useful question when I am interviewing, though. This question helps me tell if someone has self-awareness, and a method for identifying and improving on their weaknesses.

The old stand-bys ("I'm a perfectionist!", "I'm too passionate!") don't do it for me.

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 8:42pm

sbmerchant:
drexelalum11:
Would an acceptable answer be:

"When working in groups, I have difficulty delegating and feel the need to do all the work myself"

I would not say that. It implies a lack of leadership and organizational talents.

Would it be better if changed to:

"When working in groups, I have a tendency to feel I need to double check everyone else's work"

I'd assumed that would seem too much like I'm an ass

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 8:59pm

For FT interviews, I used the "no IB experience" (worked at an accounting firm) and "I go to a liberal arts college so not as in depth as a kid from a business school." I'm not sure if you can use those, but they're good "weaknesses" and don't really show weakness. At least my interviewers seemed to like them.

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 9:06pm

I dont know about the perfectionist one. Just use something that you know is a weakness, but use the majority of the time explaining how you have improved. For instance, I talked about how I might not be too familiar with all the economics jargon because I come from an engineering background but I am improving it by XXX <- internship, wsj whatever publication you can think of. They want to hear a honest answer.

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 9:11pm

eric1025:
I dont know about the perfectionist one. Just use something that you know is a weakness, but use the majority of the time explaining how you have improved. For instance, I talked about how I might not be too familiar with all the economics jargon because I come from an engineering background but I am improving it by XXX <- internship, wsj whatever publication you can think of. They want to hear a honest answer.

IMO, an answer like this is the best. They want an honest answer, but they dont really want to hear your true weakness. Saying something like "Im a chronic procrastinator and Ive been known to be lazy" may be your true weaknesses, but it's obviously not something you want to say.

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 9:11pm

I usually say that sometimes I take on too many tasks that I can reasonably handle. I use an example from my internship last summer where I took on multiple tasks and tried to multi-task to complete them all. as a result, i made careless errors on one project but since then i've learned how to prioritize projects, work more efficiently, and pay close attention to detail.

you always want to be truthful but not say anything that would jeopardize them hiring you--take a "weakness" and spin it into something positive..

 
Feb 16, 2009 - 11:09pm

I don't know if "I'm a perfectionist" is a great one because it's not a weakness for a banker. Banker's have to be perfect, so that's likely to be a strength.

You usually want to give a real weakness, but not a glaring weakness. As mentioned above, "I am terribly lazy" is not a good weakness. starttumbler has a good example, though I'd be hesitant to mention making careless errors while juggling multiple projects because, quite frankly, you'll be handling multiple projects all the time. Unless you have a real good example to show how you have improved, I'd likely leave out any weakness that involves careless/minor errors.

 
Mar 15, 2009 - 3:03pm

For one interview I had, I made a joke starting out that I had no weaknesses, and that I was perfect. The problem was the delivery came out wrong, and he thought I was serious. So I got a bit intimidated from there on out and did poorly the rest of the interview--resulting in a ding.

 
Mar 15, 2009 - 3:36pm

I remember that questions when I was interviewing. I never ask the question because it is a stupid one. My "biggest weakness" was that I joke more often than I should, my associate laughed and I did go on to get hired. But I wish people would stop that question, it tells us nothing.

 
Best Response
Mar 15, 2009 - 5:33pm

I hate this question its such a bullshit test. Last thanksgiving we did a mock interview with my grandfather to give him an idea what they are like. He is 81.

Me: What are your strengths?
Him: My hands!

Me: What are your weakness'
Him: Thats for me to know and you not to know!

"Oh the ladies ever tell you that you look like a fucking optical illusion" - Frank Slaughtery 25th Hour.
 
Mar 16, 2009 - 12:22am

i think a good answer here is "i get down in the weeds sometime and need to work on looking at the bigger picture"

as a junior banker, attention to detail is more important than anything else, so this highlights a strength while calling it a weakness.

 
Aug 13, 2010 - 12:44pm

IBnutz:
i think a good answer here is "i get down in the weeds sometime and need to work on looking at the bigger picture"

as a junior banker, attention to detail is more important than anything else, so this highlights a strength while calling it a weakness.

Hi,

I do not agreed with you. Any way, your ideal make me thinking about some thing for my project.

Pls try to keep posting.Tks and best regards

 
Aug 13, 2010 - 1:56pm

vegetablevn:
IBnutz:
i think a good answer here is "i get down in the weeds sometime and need to work on looking at the bigger picture"

as a junior banker, attention to detail is more important than anything else, so this highlights a strength while calling it a weakness.

Hi,

I do not agreed with you. Any way, your ideal make me thinking about some thing for my project.

Pls try to keep posting.Tks and best regards

I think this is one of the best responses on the thread. In other words, you are telling the interviewer one of your strengths (attention to detail), while letting he/she know that you have recognized one of your weaknesses, and, you are planning on addressing the "weakness."

 
Aug 13, 2010 - 1:36pm

Bad response:

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future, for our children."

Most people above are right, it's an obligatory, total BS question. Just think of it like the "what would you do if you were crowned Miss America" question: nobody cares about what you actually say as long as you sound good saying it.

 
Aug 13, 2010 - 4:36pm

I always use "chronic back pain".

You know you've been working too hard when you stop dreaming about bottles of champagne and hordes of naked women, and start dreaming about conditional formatting and circular references.
 
Dec 12, 2010 - 6:04pm

Acceptable answers:

Chocolate!

I care just TOO damn much.

Sometimes I have difficulty balancing work life issues and getting out of the office.

Not acceptable answers:

Sometimes when I'm really nervous I pee myself.

If someone makes me really angry I have to hit something.

Fuck you! How's that for a weakness?

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 9:31am

Don't answer with a fake weakness (e.g. "I work too hard") or some terrible weakness (e.g. "I hate accounting"). Both are instant dings. Use this answer to show that you can improve on something. A great answer would be something that explains weakness that you've had (e.g. public speaking, writing papers, etc.) and how you've improved on it so that the weakness is now just a minor problem.

 
Sep 24, 2017 - 5:32am

Sil:

Don't answer with a fake weakness (e.g. "I work too hard") or some terrible weakness (e.g. "I hate accounting"). Both are instant dings. Use this answer to show that you can improve on something. A great answer would be something that explains weakness that you've had (e.g. public speaking, writing papers, etc.) and how you've improved on it so that the weakness is now just a minor problem.

This is so true. I think if anyone said that then people are gonna think you're boring at best, and a complete wanker at the worst.

I am NOT in denial!
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:09pm

As an interviewer, I despise hearing answers like "I'm a perfectionist" or "I over-work myself". That is garbage. I agree with the other posters saying you should name a fairly legit weakness, and explain how you are improving yourself. Do not listen to the posters saying they want to see how good you are at bsing, that is idiotic.

 
Sep 13, 2018 - 9:21am

mattgunner25:

As an interviewer, I despise hearing answers like "I'm a perfectionist" or "I over-work myself". That is garbage. I agree with the other posters saying you should name a fairly legit weakness, and explain how you are improving yourself. Do not listen to the posters saying they want to see how good you are at bsing, that is idiotic.

Then don't ask the question.

It's like saying "now please lie to me. Go."

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:10pm

3 Weaknesses Question? (Originally Posted: 06/28/2009)

I know that the "what is your greatest weakness" question has probably been discussed before, even though I am still unsure of a good answer.

But I got the question "name me 3 of your greatest weaknesses" from a boutique bank and got dinged. And my friend also got the question from a BB phrased "Name me 3 of your greatest weaknesses, I know that your first two will be BS, so give me 3."

WTF are you supposed to answer to that? They don't want to hear that you have none cause then you're arrogant, they don't want to hear 3 bullshit answers (i.e. "I'm a perfectionist"), but if you give them a real weakness you screw yourself. I feel like it's a trap you can't escape.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:11pm

For the BB question already, you have to fire back with the same intensity that it is being delivered. If the interviewer flat out says "I know the first two will be BS, so give me 3," I think you have to give him 2 BS ones, and then one real one - such as, "alright, my first weakness is that I take my job too seriously, which results in my second weakness that I work too hard. My third weakness is X," and make it an actual weakness, BUT, one that you have been clearly working towards improving and have made some strong progress in that respect. The weakness question isn't an endall, it is more a test to see how comfortable you are, and whether you can be straightforward without giving away the farm. For some interviewers, the BS answer is the right answer, for other interviewers, they expect something real, but something that you have clearly improved upon and know how to fully beat it. Remember, if you are giving a real answer, then just be sure to clearly express how you've improved upon it (significantly, ideally), and what further steps you are taking - also, be comfortable with it and don't dwell on it - it is a simply question, so give a simple answer - what it is, and how you have started to and are fixing it - done, next question.

Three weaknesses is definitely a lot, so for the boutique, it is definitely a tough question and to be based on the interviewer - maybe they wanted some BS answers, maybe they wanted you to rebut with one solid weakness, maybe it was part of a line of questioning. For the BB, I think he just wanted an actual weakness and was trying to let you know that he's expecting a BS answer, so don't insult him with one.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:17pm

Mez:
My favorite:
-I sometimes overanalyze/think little things (I actually follow this one up with an example of an exam had)

This is a good one, I've used it before. This question sucks, but another answer could be something like: "I have the tendency to expect a lot from myself and others around me." Anything that shows you are a hard worker and you will bust your ass.

"I don't think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."
-John D. Rockefeller

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:18pm

anyone who told me a bullshit answer along the lines of...

I am pefectionist
I work too hard
I expect too much from myself
I overanalyze

Is not telling their real biggest weakness because they are afraid it will get them dinged. Too bad their bullshit answer seems worse than just being honest. If you give a retarded fluff answer that is not a real weakness you better be damn sure the interviewer is not a person like myself. If they want the monastic cult like formulated answers then by all means feed it to them.

"Oh the ladies ever tell you that you look like a fucking optical illusion" - Frank Slaughtery 25th Hour.

"Oh the ladies ever tell you that you look like a fucking optical illusion" - Frank Slaughtery 25th Hour.
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:19pm

Trade4size, I have always thought that maybe the interviewer might appreciate a blunt, honest answer rather than a rehearsed, well-articulated fluff answer. You say that some interviewers may prefer the latter while you appreciate the former. Obviously, going the honest route would be a brave and appreciated one if you someone like you is the interviewer. But, if not, it could be an "auto-ding" like you mentioned.

So, how would you suggest an interviewee to proceed? I have never been in the position to interview someone so I would welcome your response and insight. Thanks in advance.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:20pm

The real skill is being able to read the person that is interviewing you. An interview is like a poker game where you are dealing with imperfect information and different bits are given away as things progress. I would think someone from HR would be more likely to want to hear the rehearsed fluffy answer and and someone senior that doesn't have time for bullshit would appreciate honesty. Prepare both answers would be the safest thing but you just have to use your best judgment as to which answer to give.

Depending on where you are interviewing this could be a question that is very heavily weighted. Its design is put you in a tough situation and your ability to give a clear answer without hesitation is key.

"Oh the ladies ever tell you that you look like a fucking optical illusion" - Frank Slaughtery 25th Hour.

"Oh the ladies ever tell you that you look like a fucking optical illusion" - Frank Slaughtery 25th Hour.
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:24pm

Guys, I was recently asked the same question in an interview. One of the answer I gave that I am a bit outspoken. I don't fear expressing myself in meetings. Some senior folks don't like this behavior but some others do. I am trying to improve by putting me in different scenarios to understand how would I react if I had been at the senior position. Just wondering whether I did right thing?

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:25pm

Answering the "Your Biggest Weakness" Interview Question (Originally Posted: 09/18/2010)

Q: How should we answer "tell me your biggest weakness"? I have heard we should work in a strength as the answer.

Bad advice. The “it's-a-weakness-but-really-a-strength” response will highlight a true weakness: a lack of self-awareness.

The purpose of this question is generally to learn about your character. Mature, self-aware people know what they do well and where they need support, and they have enough self-confidence to admit it.

In answering this question, you should not belabor the point or be self-deprecating, but you should answer the question honestly. Responses like, "sometimes I need help managing multiple deadlines" or "sometimes my first response is to act without thinking through thoroughly" are perfectly acceptable and will not hurt you.

Author of Polished and former CEO of the Boston Options Exchange, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, and campus recruiter. www.PolishedU.com, www.GetHiredBlog.blogspot.com
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:29pm

also disagree with ricochet, unless you are able to go about it more delicately and be more specific / genuine than leading with the line "I'm a perfectionist" - perhaps something closer to "I sometimes get too bogged down by minor details and fail to see the big picture - this can be useful at times when attention to detail is needed, but it can and HAS also cost me a lot of time and efficiency when I have multiple deadlines to hit..."

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:30pm

not good ... they could look at that and say "well, theres someone who might do something unethical" ... think about this from their perspective guys, these people are humans too, and even have faults of their own. tell them a fault that isnt terrible, and segue that into how you have improved in that area, and you will do awesome

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:35pm

One of my friends was recently asked his top 3 weaknesses during an interview at a bulge bracket bank. The MD said his first 3 weaknesses were actually strengths, so he asked for 3 more. The jerk MD had him keep going until he was satisfied (it took my friend 12 attempts). He didn't get invited back for the next round, although I do think he wanted to.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:37pm

Some decent ones I've used (that are true):

"They say a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. Sometimes I have an issue with a build up of paper, water bottles and diet coke on my desk. But I guess it really doesn't affect my work too much."

"Sometimes I want to go above and beyond my job tasks, but I've found out that often times employers and bosses just want you to do what you were hired to do."

I also got the one where the interviewer happened to be friends with a former boss of mine that happened to lay me off 2 1/2 years prior. I was asked, "If I were to call [boss' name], what would he say about you?" I responded, "He'd say I was a hard worker. But ya know, unlike how you and I have innate interpersonal chemistry, he and I never had that chemistry. It was always awkward in the elevator or kitchen or office with him." The interviewer responded that he understood, that the guy was hard to get to know.

Array
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:39pm

Biggest wkness is for suuuuure my weiner, just waaaay too big - hard to find pants that fit.

One actual way to do this question well is to take a psychometric test that identifies your relative strengths and weaknesses, or talk with a mentor who can give you honest feedback - if you say "I actually took a test to find out my weak areas - the test said x y z, and I would tend to agree with that, so here are the steps I've taken to improve that."

People tend to be poor at self-assessment - taking the time to take a test or have a tough conversation about your weaknesses shows maturity, initiative, and a sincere desire to develop and grow.

if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:41pm

What is your biggest weakness? (interview question) (Originally Posted: 10/17/2010)

How did you answer this? Is there a good answer to this question?

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:42pm

You can either go the BS answer of: Im too much of a perfectionist, I work too hard, I expect too much of myself etc.

Or other interviewers want a real biggest weakness and then you should pick a real weakness and show how you are bettering yourself with it.

This is answered really well in the behavioral guide, you should get it.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:44pm

Short:
You can either go the BS answer of: Im too much of a perfectionist, I work too hard, I expect too much of myself etc.

Or other interviewers want a real biggest weakness and then you should pick a real weakness and show how you are bettering yourself with it.

This is answered really well in the behavioral guide, you should get it.

I have it.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:45pm

most HR/ hiring managers know the bs answers like "i work too hard..." and don't look highly on those answers. It's best to give a true weakness or area in which you are working on and show how you are trying to improve yourself. However, it's important not to tell a weakness that may directly affect your qualifications for the job.

For example, it probably wouldn't be best to mention your weakness is your attention to detail or computer skills when applying for an analyst position. However, it might be better to mention that you are trying to improve your public speaking skills and have been taking speech and debate classes or trying to expose yourself to more public speaking engagements that force you to get better. Hope this helps.

 
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Oct 16, 2015 - 12:50pm

That is the gayest question known to interviewing. Just be honest, and focus on something that is a true weakness for you. A great bs is always a good thing, but tailor it specifically to your experiences or your personality. I would argue against using the typical ones, such as: I am too much of a perfectionist, I work to hard blah blah. People can see right through those are being total bs and write you off for having no creativity.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:51pm

I've had this question asked before. My answer was that I'm sometimes too stubborn and don't give in to others' opinions/ideas. But it's not always been a bad thing (I have a story where it turned out very beneficial to be slightly stubborn), but I'm also much more open now and more willing to work with others to accomplish some end goal. I've gotten good responses from this one.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 12:58pm

Interview: Acceptable Weaknesses? (Originally Posted: 01/25/2011)

I have a job interview tomorrow, so I wanted to ask you guys what are some acceptable answers to the question: "What are your weaknesses?" If you want, feel free to post whatever you said in your interviews. I won't copy them or anything, I'm just trying to get a sense of what acceptable weaknesses look like.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:01pm

I usually go with 'I tend to get caught up in the material to the point that I can sometimes over analyze.' Or "I get impatient when the work that I am trying to complete is delayed by something avoidable."

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:09pm

karypto:
Man these answers are good, how do we know you won't steal them?

Haha -- I'll only steal if they're true of me, as well. I'm trying to find an honest, acceptable answer. Hearing how others approach this is good for brainstorming. By the way, thanks for chiming in you guys.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:05pm

You have to give an honest answer that's helpful. Saying you're a perfectionist or something to that effect is an obvious dodge.

I try to be honest. I say that I make a lot of syntactical coding errors. But the mark of a good programmer isn't being free from errors- it's being able to quickly figure out what you screwed up and how to fix it.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:07pm

IlliniProgrammer:
You have to give an honest answer that's helpful. Saying you're a perfectionist or something to that effect is an obvious dodge.

I try to be honest. I say that I make a lot of syntactical coding errors. But the mark of a good programmer isn't being free from errors- it's being able to quickly figure out what you screwed up and how to fix it.

That's a rather specific example... but the last part of the sentence is applicable to all. With the weakness question, it's good to state it (a genuine one - but not an auto-ding like 'lack attention to detail' or 'laziness') and then follow up with how you try to work on this weakness.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:08pm

Well, it's going to filter me out from consideration by some managers- typically perfectionists. But those people really shouldn't be in management in the first place, and I certainly don't want them managing me. It's good for them to ask that question of me and good for me to give an honest answer.

"Greatest weakness" is really a much better question for candidates already in industry- who already know what they are weak at and who can also afford to be selective about who hires them. I try not to ask that question when I interview new hires.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:12pm

Hahahaha, that answer would make me laugh if I asked that question of a 22-year-old- if only because I know the futility of trying to answer it until you've worked in industry for six months.

Not sure how it would fly with interviewers asking the question.

IMHO, if an interviewer is asking a college Junior "What's your greatest weakness?" he's making a mistake. Asking that question of someone without at least six months of experience is like asking a newborn baby that came out bald what their hair color is. You can guess and make inferences what it will be from other information about them, but you don't really know what it will be until they've been on the job for six months.

This question is really only fair game for an experienced professional working in a similar function -industry doesn't matter. (Sorry F500 Finance Department, that question is perfectly fair game for a switch into IBD.)

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:16pm

How to answer the "biggest weakness" question for consulting (Originally Posted: 05/06/2012)

I've heard that for IB saying that you need to work on public speaking is usually a good way to go about it. But (and I may be greatly mistaken) isn't public speaking and presenting to clients a major part of consulting? So if anyone out there interviews for consulting, is there anything you can recommend?

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:19pm

How about.. you tend to pick up other people's slack when working in a group setting because you aren't assertive enough/ you dont make expectations about responsibility clear? The weakness is that you're a bit of a pushover, which is a bad weakness but not a damning one. You're answering the question legitimately but on the plus side you get to show that you're hard working and you're a team player.

 
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:21pm

Pick something real....all the wrote responses are far too well know....take something legit...that is likely on your resume...the issue is that you have a weakness but rather:
1) You can man up to it
2) You have taken steps to improve it
3) Being in consulting may help you get over the hump

Public speaking could work...you can segment it though...for example...1) one on one vs. grup 2) You have team vs.client...really doesn't matter because everyone has development areas. If you can pick one that is real you will stand out...just show you have taken steps to improve.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:24pm

I've said that my cynicism is my biggest weakness, in that it probably costs me potential friendships and makes me less trusting of co-workers (a little bit harder to be a team player). And then I talk about how my yoga/meditation practice has helped considerably blah blah blah. Seemed to garner positive results... not sure how well it would work for consulting specifically.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:25pm

Strengths and Weaknesses (Originally Posted: 07/20/2012)

I have been reading a great amount on how to interview like a stud. One of the most popular questions asked in an interview is:

"What are 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses of yours?"

For some reason this is one of the harder questions for me to answer (maybe because, c'mon, me have any weaknesses? get real) But for all seriousness I have a hard time identifying my weaknesses (which I usually just make up to make them sound half way decent).

My question is what kind of weaknesses do interviewers look for / want to hear.

*Additional info. Rising junior and summer internship interviews are just around the corner. Looking for insight from people who have been around the block.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:31pm

Good responses so far on what to say -- I hate this question, and don't have any good answers on what to say -- but important to remember is that, assuming you have a handful of offers when it's all done, remember in deciding which one to take who asked this question. In my calculus, it is a BIG point against them that they did. The answers are tough to come up with because it is a bad interview question asked by someone who doesn't know how to interview, and doesn't care to because they don't really care who they hire. Is that someone you want to work for?

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to do." - Bob Dylan
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:32pm

Always find a way to use specific examples (duh). They want to make sure you are a leader, you work well in teams, you have legitimate experience, but you are also humble.

I think the experience/ example that you address after you introduce your strength is what matters the most.

Also, try and phrase your strength/weakness in a different way that makes you stand out. Instead of saying that you are a strong leader, say, you have been able to empower those around you during many different stages of your life. It's a bit of a different spin, but the same thing.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:33pm

FutureWaller:

"What are 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses of yours?"

My question is what kind of weaknesses do interviewers look for / want to hear.

  1. I lack work/life balance
  2. I need to be more mindful of the levels at which others operate, therefore I need to become a better mentor to maximize team productivity
  3. Although my innovative solutions are highly profitable, I need to be more aware that innovation scares many people and need to include them more on the entire thought process, not just the solution
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:34pm

I just say I have no weaknesses and it would take me too long to list my strengths, and way too hard to just name 3. Then I stand up, flip the table, walk to the door, turn around and say "I am the law" then walk out and slam the door. Phone call for an offer usually comes about 2-3 minutes later.

I hate victims who respect their executioners
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:35pm

BlackHat:
I just say I have no weaknesses and it would take me too long to list my strengths, and way too hard to just name 3. Then I stand up, flip the table, walk to the door, turn around and say "I am the law" then walk out and slam the door. Phone call for an offer usually comes about 2-3 minutes later.

MINT.

Keep it together and you will go far..
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:43pm

StryfeDSP:
Tell him that your weaknesses are that you work too hard, care too much, and you are too much of an overachiever.

Then tell him that your weaknesses are actually your strengths.

That would have been my answer years ago. Now I'm focusing on time management, which I could say is a strength. However, innovation seems more important.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:44pm

In my opinion, the best answer to the weakness question is one that is completely irrelevant to the job and/or something you're working on improving. So, you're applying for a job as an investment banking analyst? A weakness might be speaking in front of large crowds. It's probably true and it probably doesn't matter.

Alternately, something that you're actually ok at now (or better) that you have received negative feedback on before.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:47pm

SirTradesaLot:

In my opinion, the best answer to the weakness question is one that is completely irrelevant to the job and/or something you're working on improving. So, you're applying for a job as an investment banking analyst? A weakness might be speaking in front of large crowds. It's probably true and it probably doesn't matter.


Alternately, something that you're actually ok at now (or better) that you have received negative feedback on before.

This is the best approach. +1

Do not say your weakness is anything that is actually a strength like you work to hard. It is bullshit and people know that and it will not get you any farther.

My strength I always use is being efficient. Weakness I typically go with having trouble delegating.

I have trouble delegating tasks and whether it should be handled by me, coordinated with someone else, etc. This can hint at a hard worker but is not a typical "I work too hard and its a weakness" answer.

Frank Sinatra - "Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy."
 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:49pm

Don't give some generic answer. Where's the proof? Anyone can call herself/himself "innovative," but prove it. What have you done that's "innovative?" What makes that your greatest strength? What makes it so much more special than your other strengths? What have you done that shows that being "disorganized" is your biggest weakness? What action plan have you created to solve that problem? If you can't answer those questions, then you're not ready to start on that section of the application. People want to know that you've thought things through. These generic, one-size-fits-all answers are going to make you sound just like everyone else. You want every answer that you give to set you apart from the other generic suckers.

 
Oct 16, 2015 - 1:51pm

I agree that your biggest weakness can be something that has nothing to do with the job opportunity. Another option is to choose a weakness that can also be a strength.

For example, my biggest weakness is that I'm impatient. I like to get things done quickly, so frequently I find myself pushing others to get things done quickly and efficiently as well.

 
Sep 26, 2016 - 4:46pm

I used this a lot:

"My weakness is that sometimes i might be stubborn and have a difficulty in letting go on some things/matters. This side of me i think is balanced out by my ability to change my opinions once i hear a better way of doing things, finishing a project" - This shows that you hold your ground(sometimes stubborn) and in the same time, if somebody comes up with a better philosophy/solution to a problem, you can change.

 
Jan 5, 2017 - 9:37pm

I think calves are a good one because many people can relate.

**How is my grammar? Drop me a note with any errors you see!**
 
Jan 15, 2017 - 4:40pm

You're never going to be a perfect fit for any role. Figure out where the interviewer is going to be most hesitant to hire you, bring it up, and address it. He's thinking it anyway.

It should be honest, but it doesn't have to directly be a "weakness" or exactly answer the question being asked. I wouldn't ever give some transparently BS answer like "I'm too much of a perfectionist" or "my passion." You clearly don't think passion is a weakness, so you're just lying.

E.g. after having worked in a number of startups and applying to a giant bank, "As you can see from my resume, I don't have much experience in large organizations. I can imagine that getting up to speed on navigating departmental politics could be a challenge." You can follow up by asking about the company culture. You can put the interviewer in a place where he's forced to argue that you are going to be able to do it, otherwise he's talking down about the culture of the company he's trying to hire for. No one representing their company should be telling you in an interview that the company is overly political.

You don't have to make your "weakness" about some intrinsic character flaw or lack of capability, you can make it about where the interviewer potentially sees you as being a weak candidate for the particular role. Answer correctly and you demonstrate self-awareness.

e.g. If you're fresh out of school and never had an internship, clearly lack of relevant experience is a weakness. Bring it up, and you have an opportunity to defend yourself on that front.

 
Jan 18, 2017 - 2:40pm
Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: "To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods."
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