What do you do when you read/hear the weakness question? Schools are assessing how well you self evaluate. Like a business problem, they want to hear your plan of action, your implementation, and your success rate.
Here are some tips to help you a) think about and evaluate your weaknesses, and b) be prepared to write about them in an essay or discuss them in an interview.
1. Prepare answers in advance. When an interviewer asks, “So Natalie, tell me about your weaknesses and what you did to overcome them?” you don’t want to be left silent drawing or blank, or worse – caught off guard and say something crazy like “Gosh, there are so many, I don’t even know where to begin.” Ding!
2. Be honest. If you have been let go from a position, you need to discuss the lessons learned from this negative situation and how you overcame the situation. If you have a procrastination problem, you need to talk about ways in which you’re working on boosting your time management skills.
3. Remain professionally focused. Don’t discuss your addiction to video games or your weakness for chocolate. It’s also certainly not the time to talk about anything inappropriate. We’re talking about work-related, professional weaknesses.
4. Focus on your own weaknesses. Don’t talk about your cousin’s attraction to arson or your mother-in-law’s conspiratorial behavior. Don’t discuss about how your boss is a jerk or how you can’t stand your coworker’s habit of nail biting or how your desk is unorganized because the guy your share your cubicle with always throws his garbage your way. This question is about YOU and your weaknesses – don’t shift the attention or the blame onto someone else.
5. Proactively address the issues. If you have a quantitative weakness, take courses that address the weakness (accounting, statistics). Don’t wait for the admissions committee to ask you to take a course. If you are uncomfortably shy, getting involved with an organization like Toastmasters can help you, and show the committee that you’re taking steps to overcome that challenge.
6. Avoid clichés. “Gee, I guess I just work too hard sometimes” is a copout – the adcom/interviewer will know that deep down you’re proud of your intense work ethic. It is the life of a student to work hard – don’t use that as your “weakness.”
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.