The “What is Your Biggest Weakness” interview question is perhaps the trickiest interview question to answer. It contradicts the most basic instinct you have during an interview: showing your best self to the interviewer. Whether or not you move on to the next round of the interviewing process — or even whether or not you receive a job offer — can depend on your ability to represent your strengths and skills in the best way possible. But what happens when that objective is turned on its head? How do you turn this trick question into an opportunity to impress your audience? Let’s find out!
Why Do Interviewers Ask About Your Biggest Weakness?
The “What is your biggest weakness” interview question is only a minor part of the interviewers’ plan to test your self-confidence and crisis management during an interview. Don’t get caught off guard: take some time to prep your answer and how you’ll deliver it.
Before we jump into how to answer this question, let’s find out why interviewers ask it. Interviews are looking for several things:
- Are you self-aware about your shortcomings? Remember, product management is all about evaluation and determining what is missing with ambiguous input. You, aka the most important product, also have some weaknesses, and you must understand the areas you are missing.
- Have you thought about how to improve yourself? We all know that nobody is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to be better at what we do. By showing the interviewers that you have a solid game plan to improve yourself, you are demonstrating that you are proactive and motivated.
How to Present the Answer
No matter what you answer, it is important to keep in mind that your response must walk the line between being too honest and trying too hard.
Being too blunt or thoughtlessly personal about what your greatest weakness is can easily scare away recruiters. But clichéd answers such as “my greatest weakness is that I care too much” or that your greatest weakness is that you “work too hard” are more likely to make you seem fake and bland.
When a recruiter is asking you this question in a product management interview, they are not just asking you to tell them what you think they want to hear. Most often, what they are trying to do is get a handle on how self aware you are. Second, they might be trying to better understand how that self awareness translates to your work. To help illustrate this, we have outlined some basic templates below for two different approaches to answering this question.
3 Answers for the “What Is Your Biggest Weakness” Interview Question
While keeping those points in mind, here are three “what is your greatest weakness” answer samples that our members used to impress their interviewers. These answer templates can help you market yourself as a realistic and open-minded Product Manager:
I tend to stay quiet during the first few meetings when I am starting a new project or initiative, but speak up more as I get to know the work better.
This answer works because while being quiet isn’t very desirable for a Product Manager, this answer communicates that you know it’s best to let the experts speak. You want to make sure that the team has as much information as possible. Nobody wants a garrulous teammate, so the interviewers will appreciate the fact that you know when to let others speak.
You can complete this response by suggesting a way of improving this habit of yours. One great example is doing some research beforehand and preparing some questions to ask during the meeting.
I tend to do a few things at once.
This is another great way to answer the “what is your biggest weakness” interview question. Yes, juggling between multiple tasks isn’t the best way to do your work, but it shows a prevalent trait of Product Managers: multitasking. Any interviewer who meets with a natural multitasker will appreciate this. They will likely be interested to hear about how you get things done with so much on your plate.
Also, a great Product Manager should master multitasking anyways. The best way to complete this answer would be to share the importance of prioritization when it comes to juggling multiple projects.
I am blunt with giving feedback.
Being blunt might demotivate teammates and hinder their productivity. However, it shows you care about the quality of the work more than you care about what people think of you. It proves that you are all about the product. It also shows that you are honest.
You might add to this answer by telling your interviewer that you are working on ways to frame your opinions in a way that shows empathy with the challenges that the receiver of the feedback faces. Remember, empathy is a crucial aspect of product management, and you must use this concept to show the interviewer that you value it.
2 Answer Strategies for Talking About Your Greatest Weakness
No matter what your answer to the “what is your biggest weakness” interview question, you can apply several strategies to ensure your answer is positioned to paint your work history in the best light. Just like prioritizing a product roadmap, you want to find a way to demonstrate that you are able to identify the areas that are lacking — and more importantly, the areas that are going to have the biggest impact on everything else.
The ideal is to really maximize the returns you get from your efforts to improve. Not only is it an invaluable ability to any product management team, but it’s also a great way to reframe a weakness as a strength!
1. The Self Awareness Strategy
The first template involves tapping into your self awareness and getting as much of a feeling for the culture you are trying to mesh with as you can. If you can come to know the crowd you are speaking to, you will be able to tailor your response to suit your audience accordingly.
For example, say that you are interviewing for a Product Manager position with a company based in the health and fitness tech industry. Knowing that the industry and the kind of people that it attracts are more likely to be fitness enthusiasts themselves, we can approach the question from the perspective of someone identifying a weakness in their training regimen. To align with this culture of goal-oriented, measurable self-improvement, a great strategy would be to highlight the areas that you have set goals in your own life to improve and the ways that you have gone about improving them.
To do this successfully, try to think back on a time that you found yourself being challenged to take on a responsibility that was outside of your knowledge base. Use this as an example of a shortcoming, and explain what steps you took to get yourself ‘conditioned’ and up to the task. This demonstrates a key product management skill: adaptability.
After all, if there’s a task to do and no one is available to do it, you can bet that the Product Manager will have to step up and play that role until someone can be brought in. The ability to learn something that has nothing to do with your core competencies is the hallmark of a good Product Manager and a flexible leader.
2. Shifting The Focus
The second template for answering this question is a little more specific, and may be more useful if you have previous Product Management experience. The goal is to simply find a way to shift the focus from yourself to the weaknesses of the process or the systems that you were working with in the past. You never want to attach yourself to your weaknesses if possible. Remaining constructive, try to highlight your focus on troubleshooting a weak point of a team you worked with previously.
For example, maybe you were a part of a team that didn’t use agile methodologies, but you were able to research and find a way to adapt the framework for your team and get everybody on board. By explaining how you were able to take a grounded approach to improving together as a team, or improving a process that wasn’t serving the system, you are able to quietly make your own personal weaknesses on the job less relevant and really help to shift that focus to your own capabilities. It’s not about where you fall short, but how you respond in the face of challenge.
Crush the Biggest Weakness Interview Question
You can always find more answers to “what is your biggest weakness”, but always keep in mind that you should think about how this weakness impacts the performance of your team and what you can do to improve yourself.
You can use these templates and strategies to adapt your own words and experiences into an effective answer and put something in writing. Prepare a rough outline of your response so that when this question comes up you will be able to sound thoughtful and prepared. Remember to try and keep it brief and to the point. You shouldn’t need more than a minute and a half to give your answer.
This is only one of the many questions that Product Manager interviewers love to ask! Personal questions targeted towards your soft skills are mostly asked during the first round of interviews. If you’re struggling with your interview prep or hitting a roadblock converting interviews into offers, it may be time to get some help. Schedule a free consultation with the Product Gym career coaches to learn how we can help you kick-start the product management career you’ve been striving for.