Continuing from last week’s column, you may remember Robert, who wrote:

Dear Sam: I was wondering if you could provide some general information to orient me to interviews. I have not interviewed in more than 20 years, so I feel a little lost about what to expect. — Robert

Last week we covered how to answer the “Tell me about yourself” question. This week, let’s look at what some consider to be another challenging question, “Tell me about one of your weaknesses.”

Most candidates struggle when asked to identify one of their weaknesses; after all, aren’t we trying to appear as perfect with no apparent weaknesses? The point of this question is to see if you can identify an area in yourself that requires improvement, and to learn if you have taken steps to overcome this weakness (some hiring managers want to see if you are as in tune with your shortcomings as you are with your strengths). So, the answer doesn’t have to present a glaring weakness and reason not to hire you, but should provide insight into your ability to initiate corrective actions or continued professional development. Let’s look at an example:

“I realized I needed extra help in organizing and planning my schedule, so I purchased a detailed planner and have started setting a few minutes aside each day to review my schedule, priorities, and deadlines. Doing so has allowed me to maintain a clear view of what I have scheduled and has helped me optimize my time.”

You can also choose to highlight areas of weakness that have little to no impact on the position for which you are applying. Let’s say you were an accountant; a weakness in the area of public speaking may not pose any threat to diminishing the strength of your candidacy. For example:

“I’ve always been a little nervous speaking in front of large groups of people, but I recently joined Toastmasters, as although I have not needed to deliver presentations in past positions, I believe I could learn more about selecting and delivering messages to secure support and promote a cohesive environment.”

Regardless of how you answer, be sure to prove how you are taking steps to overcome the weakness, so it doesn’t pose a threat to securing the job.

Be ready for different interview formats – when scheduling your interview, asking about the structure of your interview will help you prepare. Interviews come in many shapes and sizes, including one-on-one, group, panel, and technical. While you won’t anticipate every question, knowing whether you will face a group of six on a panel versus an informal interview with the hiring manager, can help you prepare mentally to handle the situation.

Interviewing can be a stressful experience, but being prepared, practicing, and knowing how your strengths and experiences relate to your prospective employer’s needs, can reduce anxiety and improve the success of your search.