Every engineering job interview you go on will be unique, but there are some questions you can almost always count on. Weaknesses are a topic that will likely be addressed by every hiring manager, but many engineers struggle when asked to talk about their weaknesses. Naturally, you don’t what to shoot yourself in the foot by talking about a weakness that will put you out of the running for a job. However, with the right approach, you can answer questions about your weaknesses honestly and make those weaknesses irrelevant.
It is tempting to use cliché answers like, “my biggest weakness is that I work too hard,” or “my biggest weakness is perfectionism.” Hiring managers hear this every day, and they can see straight through it. They want to find professionals who have the self-awareness to identify their limitations, because every person does, in fact, have weaknesses. Therefore, you want to address a true weakness. For example, you might be lacking a year or two of experience the job posting called for. That is a real weakness – but also a weakness that can be made irrelevant.
Flip Your Weakness on Its Ear
The most important thing to remember when addressing weaknesses is you must use it to segue into a strength. Instead of saying, “I only have three years of supervisory experience and your posting asked for five,” think about ways you can make that a strength.
A more constructive answer sounds like this:
“I don’t have the five years of supervisory experience you were looking for, but I think it’s important to note that in the three years that I have been supervising other engineers, our team has hit every milestone and our projects have come in under budget 100% of the time. I have a very motivational style of leadership, and I think that shows through in my record.”
With that answer, you admitted a weakness, but you also were able to showcase the fact you have been a successful leader, even with your limited years of experience. Never bring up a weakness without finding a way to turn it into a strength. You want the hiring manager to remember your answer based on something positive, rather than something negative.