Tackling the Question "What Are Your Weaknesses?"

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"Ex-squeeze me? Me? A weakness?"

It’s a question we often get asked in interviews - and one you should expect:

“What are your weaknesses?” (and no, they're not talking about your weakness for chocolate and cannolis)

“When was a time you failed at something?”

“When was a time something didn’t go to plan?”

“When was a time you managed conflict?”

No one wants to admit to their weaknesses or times where things didn't go to plan, let alone during an interview for a prospective job. As high-achieving law students, admitting that we even have any weaknesses and talking ourselves down can feel like throwing away all prospects of a job. It’s why we’re often tempted to say our weaknesses are things like “caring too much” or “paying too much attention to detail” and “doing too much at once”.

Everyone has weaknesses and interviewers know when you’re spinning the question. It pays to answer the question but do so genuinely i.e. don’t lie (we hope we don’t have to tell you that anyway if you’re on your way to becoming a lawyer). It shows that you’re aware of yourself and your weaknesses. If you find that you can’t think of an answer, then you need to do some self-reflection. If after some self-reflection you still think you don’t have any, firstly, acknowledge that you’re delusional. Then ask your friends, family, work colleagues (past and present) or think back to any performance reviews you had.

Ok, so hopefully by now we’ve finally acknowledged one of our weaknesses so you're not left stuttering during an interview. But don’t just end there - although you’ve honestly acknowledged your weakness to the interviewer, a weakness is still a weakness. This is where you can turn it into a positive.

Always follow up your answer to these types of questions with what you’ve learned from your weakness. Give tangible examples as well to show how you’ve learnt from it - it’s not enough to just acknowledge your weakness but say you’ve learned from it. Give examples that show you were proactive in learning from the weakness, steps you took in addressing the weakness or resolving the conflict - it could be taking a different approach, recognising you need to change something or seeking help from others. Let them know what the outcome was, even if it’s still a process of trial and error. At least it shows that you’re aware of your weaknesses and you’re willing to address them.

We're often tempted to downplay difficult situations we've found ourselves in, whether it be a confrontation with a worker or your boss, a failed project or criticism you've received from others. Showing interviewers that you're aware of your downfalls but also that you're proactive in learning from them shows that you learn from criticism and are capable of "like, realising stuff".

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