Paul is a Teacher of English at the British Council in Hong Kong. He has over 20 years of experience teaching English at all ages and levels. He holds a diploma in English Language Teaching from Trinity College, London and a Master of Science degree in Psychology-Neuroscience.
How to speak positively about your weaknesses (Part 2)
In Part 1 last week, we focused on how to decide which weaknesses to talk about in an interview or appraisal. This week, we’ll look at how to present them and avoid appearing like a poor candidate.
Turn your weaknesses into strengths
Now that you have a list of shortcomings that you are ready to talk about, how should you present them? First, avoid using words with negative connotations if you can. For instance, rather than saying, ‘We failed to reach our sales targets’, try, ‘We had an eighty per cent success rate’.
Obviously, your answer doesn’t just end there. The interviewer wants to know if you are aware of where and why you went wrong and how you respond to the situation. Here is your chance to transform that weakness and really shine. Indicate clearly that you know where you need to improve, what steps you have taken to make those improvements, and what evidence demonstrates that you have progressed. This shows that you are self-aware, pro-active and goal oriented.
As always, in order to make your answer concrete and specific, try to use the STAR approach when answering interview questions. If you have not heard of STAR before, it stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Briefly:
Situation: describe the specific situation or work activity involved.
Task: what was the goal or desired outcome from your work?
Action: what specifically did you do to address the issue?
Result: what was the outcome of the action you took?
For example: (Situation) One of my duties as software engineer at XYZ technologies was to write weekly progress reports on projects in development. (Task) Feedback from my line manager indicated that while my reports were thorough, they were, in places, too technical for business managers to understand easily and those they were often submitted after deadline. (Action) In order to improve in this regard, I enrolled in a technical writing course at a local college. One important thing I learned from this course is that I was taking too long in gathering information and found it difficult to get started writing. I learned how to overcome this pattern and also to use less jargon and more direct language in my writing. (Result) My line manager has commented that my writing is much improved and has praised me for consistently meeting report deadlines. Additionally, I have been tasked with running a series of technical writing workshops in order to share what I learned with other members of the software engineering team.
Whether it is in an interview situation or even a regular performance review, remember, there are no bad results, only informative results. When you are prepared to talk about the challenges you have faced and how you turned adversity into an opportunity to grow, you are sure to impress.