The “Weakness” Question

Yahoo posted an article for job-seekers today about how to handle the "What is your biggest weakness?" question.  College-seekers need to know how to handle that question, too.

College interviewers may ask you the same question.  College applications might have sections in which you are asked to tell them if you've ever been subject to a disciplinary action at school, or to tell them about a time you failed, or to share an experience in which you learned a hard lesson.

How should you handle these questions?

First, if anyone tells you to mention a weakness that is actually a strength, like, "Sometimes, I try to hard to help people in need", tell that person to beat it.  They're giving you just plain stupid advice.  No interviewer, college or otherwise, will be impressed by your supposed strong weakness.

A better approach is to just be honest.

You've got weaknesses; we all have them.  You've made mistakes; we've all made them.  Smart, mature students know this.  They don't hide behind their mistakes.  They own up to and learn from them.  They aren't ashamed of their weaknesses.  They try their best and then stand proud of their efforts. 

Colleges need kids who are aware of their weaknesses, who can bounce back when they fail.  Why?  Because at some point in college, you're going to fail.  You'll run for a club office and you won't win.  You'll get a 'D' on a test even though you studied hard.  You'll apply for a research grant and be rejected.  I promise you it's going to happen. 

Nobody who's enjoyed a fulfilling and successful college career did so by being afraid to fail.  Colleges want those kids who are willing to put themselves out there.

So when you're applying to college and you're asked about your weaknesses, talk openly about them.  When you're asked about your mistakes, own them and talk about what you're doing to avoid making them again.

Want examples?

It's, "I got a 'D' in chemistry because my teacher didn't like me," vs. "No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get a handle on chemistry."

It's, "I was suspended from school last year because my counselor over-reacted," vs. "I was suspended from school last year because I did something stupid that I will never do again."

It's, "I didn't make varsity soccer because there were so many politics involved," vs. "I'm not the best soccer player, but I love playing soccer anyway."

Learn the lesson now, and you'll not only get a little closer to college, but you'll also have no problem handling the "weakness" question when you apply for jobs after you graduate.