How you should really answer that question - "What is your greatest weakness?"

A woman lands a great job after acing her interview questions
A woman lands a great job after acing her interview questions

It’s easy to apply for a job when you have the specific skill set that so many people are looking for. 

What’s not so easy is competing against other candidates who either have the same or better qualifications than you.

So you can’t just rely on that alone. Instead things like how you present yourself as a candidate matter just as much, if not more.

As Careers24 says, you only have one chance to make an immediate and impressive impression, so be confident and know how to navigate your way through seemingly common questions that are harder to answer than you think.

While many job interviews have questions that are particularly suited to the role required, there are also many common questions across the board – and surprisingly enough, these are quite often the ones that many people stumble on.

It’s not because they're necessarily difficult to answer, but that they force you to think of responding in a way that presents you in the best light possible. 

READ MORE: Are DMs and retweets a creative new way to apply for jobs or get funding?

And how do you do this without being saccharine, striking a balance between being honest and not overly praising yourself to the point where people don’t quite believe you?

For example, a simple question about listing your weaknesses?

We round up a few potentially tricky questions and ways to answer them:

1. Tell us about yourself 

An innocuous question but one that sets the tone for the rest of the interview. According to HuffPost, HR practitioner Ilene Siscovick suggests not repeating what’s already listed on your CV because your prospective employer already knows what’s in front of him/her.

Instead, rather delve into what made you choose the field, exploring elements of the things you learned throughout the years and the experience built up.

Don’t be scared to mention ups and downs because it demonstrates that you’ve grown in your field. 

Use the bad moments to show how you’ve dealt with a difficult situation so that it gives people a sense of what you’re capable of not just in terms of skills but in how you interact and approach work situations. 

2. What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?

A tricky question that no one likes to answer because it’s hard to find a middle ground and so easy to shoot yourself in the foot. 

The problem is that many people start with the perception that this question is out to get you. 

And because you think it’s a trap there are one of two responses you resort to: overly cautious to the point of providing a generic answer that says nothing or you inadvertently are too honest and blurt out something that ruins your chances.

The suggests that something that can help you is by talking about an area that you’re struggling with, but by including the strategies you’re using to employ trying to improve on that specific area. 

Remember that no one expects you to be perfect – but they do want you to be able to acknowledge areas in your work life that you’re aware need work.

READ MORE: What to do when you don't know what to do after graduating

3. What kind of salary are you looking at?

Does anyone actually enjoy tackling this one? And yet, it’s the one question that sets the bar on how you measure your worth.

HR practitioners often recommend that being knowledgeable about the field you’re in, so the key here is to do as much research as possible.

HuffPost adds that it’s worth looking into visiting salary comparison sites to get a general feel for the amount earned according to the experience that you’ve gained.

Don’t undermine or undersell yourself by mentioning the lowest possible amount, but suggest a salary range (e.g. between R30 000 to R40 000) based on the knowledge that you’ve gained to show that not only do you’re up to date on the field, but that you also know what you want and how much you’re worth.

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