Actually be honest
Full Tilt Consulting’s Jessica Farley said prior to an interview, candidates should reach out to former managers who can provide honest insight into weaknesses the candidate may possess. The best response to the question would be “According to my last boss, I was a bit too narrowly focused on my tasks and my team and neglected other departments. My lack of relationships within the company hurt my ability to push agendas forward. As a result, I have made it a point to build relationships in other departments by inviting a new department head to coffee once a week and it is a practice I plan to continue.”
Farley said exercise caution in answering this question, but be straightforward and honest. By reaching out to a former manager, you can gain valuable insight into areas for your professional development. “Not only that, but it is likely that these same managers will be contacted later on as a reference and may get asked “what your greatest weaknesses” are. Would it not be advantageous if your answer mirrors your the answer your boss shares?”
Farley said the worst responses are when candidates try to turn their weakness into a positive. ““I try too hard” or “I devote too much of my time to my work” are answers that are seen right through by the interviewer; not to mention they are completely cheesy,” she said.
Ryan Holiday, Director of Marketing for American Apparel, said the best would be just something honest but not too self-loathing or insecure. “This is tricky and often depends on the tone of the interview, the company, and the phrasing. The person being interviewed wants to sound confident without being openly arrogant, wise but not glib, self-aware but not weak and insecure.”