Many job-hunters believe that the answer to this question should not be a weakness, but a strength, which is only presented as a weakness. Not true. It may work, but it is not worth the risk. This should be an honest discussion, because anything else will likely be sensed by the hiring manager and will not work in your favor. There is the presumption that everyone embellishes a little bit on their resume and when talking about their achievements. This is why the weakness question is meant to serve as some kind of reality check. It really is another opportunity for you to strengthen your case if you have prepared correctly. The key is in the second part of the question - what have you done to fix them?, which by the way is often omitted by the interviewer. You should, however, always focus on answering this second part more than anything else.
OK - now here is what the interviewer is really trying to learn about you, when asking this question:
1. Although these are rare - the focus of the interviewer is on any major discrepancies between your expected skills and your real skills. For instance - if you are applying for a position that requires you to make daily data analysis and you give as a major weakness your excel knowledge - well you may have just shot yourself in the foot.
2. Many recruiters are really interested in the amount of work and time you have dedicated to fixing any shortcomings in your professional arsenal. If you show awareness for your weaknesses and at the same time demonstrate that you have been very serious about improving yourself - this sends a very strong positive signal. You can also go a step further and talk about a limitation that is already pretty much in the past. When you can walk your listener through the problem and how you became aware, how you worked on it and how it is not a problem any more - this can become another big gold star for you in the notebook of the interviewer.
3. In addition to the specific shortcomings and the work you have done to address them - this discussion will reveal more about your personal and professional characteristics. The recruiter will try to evaluate your business strength in light of the pressures and requirements of the position in question. So while relevance still counts, it is probably a good idea to avoid discussing any of the core skills for the position in question.
Learn more about my DVD “Mastering the Job Interview" at: