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How To Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”


One common question we are asked is how to answer the dreaded interview favourite: “What is your greatest weakness?”.

Let me start my saying that I think this is a lazy, cliche question. Interviewers could be asking far more useful questions, but unfortunately it does persist in the medical and healthcare selection process, despite evidence suggesting that “physicians have a limited ability to accurately self-assess.” The same statement is probably accurate whether you’re a doctor, dentist, nurse, physio, speech pathologist, or cleaner.

Everyone is fallible, and we certainly all have weaknesses. However, as the purpose of an interview is to positively differentiate you from other candidates, you need to answer it in the right way.

A ‘too honest’ response might be: “I can never remember the right dosages for morphine”, whereas a ‘less than honest’ answer would be: “I can’t really think of any weaknesses”.

When you’re preparing for your next interview, you can plan for this question. The first step is to reframe the question to suit a more positive response.  The simple key is to take a weakness you had previously, and changed for the better.  Just be ready for these questions with an honest, authentic answer, and avoid giving a cliché response. For example, we don’t want to hear: “My biggest weaknesses is that I am a perfectionist”.

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If you are asked this question, outline a (real) issue that you have changed. Here’s a methodology for approaching this :

1. Situation

“When I first started in my current job, I was uncomfortable with delegation. I soon understood that I needed to delegate in order to get everything done…”

2. Action

“I spoke with my mentor during one of our regular meetings, and let her know about the situation. I came to realise that I did not understand how to delegate effectively, and got some tips on how to do it – such as holding a quick daily meeting, giving people ownership for key tasks, and following up to make sure they are completed…”

3. Outcome

“Having been in the position for 11 months now, I am far more effective at delegation. I feel that I have a high-performing team, with the motivation and ownership to get things done.”

The point is, you don’t need to panic! If you’re ready and prepared, you should sail through this question.

Do you agree with this approach? What has worked for you?

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