The Interview Question they always ask…

Interview Question cover image

The Interview Question they always ask….

As a candidate working in our sector you’ll be able to anticipate some of the questions you might be asked during and interview by a potential employer: how did you deal with a difficult client? Tell us about what motivated you to get into counselling? How important are mutual aid fellowships in a client’s ongoing recovery? And so on.

However, the question that will always rear its head is ‘can you tell us about your greatest weakness?’. And weirdly enough it’s quite likely to be the one question you find most difficult to answer.

Nobody likes to look weak (and lots of us don’t want to sound like we’re blowing our own trumpet) so as a result we can stumble and falter and maybe come up with a trite ‘….erm….I work too hard’ hoping that’ll do the trick. It probably won’t.

The three key interview techniques for answering the inevitable ‘weakness’ question are as follows:

  • Mention skills that aren’t critical for the job
  • Discuss skills you’ve improved on
  • Turn a negative into a positive

Even though the question is about weaknesses, your answer should always be framed around positive aspects of your skills and abilities.

Analyse the key skills and strengths required for the position you’re interviewing for and then come up with an honest shortcoming which is not essential for success in that job.

For example, if you’re applying for a recovery practitioner position, you might explain that you’re not particularly confident presenting to large groups of people. In this case, it will be more important to emphasise your strength in one-on-one situations with clients – providing an example of your difficulty with presentations to large numbers shouldn’t be a problem.

Another option is to talk about skills that you’ve improved in your current/previous job. This way you can show the interviewer that you’re capable of making improvements when necessary.

You can describe your initial level of capability, discuss the steps you have taken to make improvements, and then talk through your current, improved level of skill.

Finally, turn a negative into a positive. For example, you might have an overly developed sense of urgency to get projects completed or of wanting to triple-check every item in a referral form – these can be turned into strengths – you’re a candidate who will make sure that the project is done on time and your work will be close to perfect.

Whatever you decide your approach is to the question of personal weakness make sure you prepare your answer properly – you can be sure they’ll ask you.

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