The Interview

Handling the 'greatest weakness' question

By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach

Woody Allen said, “If you are not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you are not doing anything very innovative.”  Edison discovered 1,800 ways NOT to build a light bulb before finding the right way. He learned how to build a light bulb from his mistakes. Remember, Columbus started out looking for India! Mistakes are not something you should avoid discussing, but maintain your focus on how you have learned and grown from the experiences. 

A lot of people are afraid to tell an interviewer a weakness so they say they don’t have any. Unfortunately believing you have no weaknesses is a HUGE weakness -- probably much bigger than any weakness you actually have. On top of that, it is a big fat lie. However, I’m not suggesting that you divulge more than is necessary or appropriate. The quote, “We confess to little faults only to persuade others that we have no great ones,” is the perfect way to approach answering weakness questions. Essentially, you want to point to a weakness that is pretty easy to overcome and focus your answer around what you are doing to eliminate it.  

Discussing challenges and obstacles you have faced during your life are elements of an interview that cannot and should not be avoided when brought up by interviewers. The important thing to remember is that your focus should not be on the biggest challenge of your life or even on the weakness itself, but on what you learned from it and how it made you a stronger professional. For more tips and strategies on how to prepare for your summer internship interviews, see our Student Tool Kit.