Peretz Partensky on Flickr
Interviewer: “So… what’s your biggest weakness?”To be honest, I think the biggest weakness question is one of the most bullshit questions you can get during an interview. But people keep asking it, so you’ve got to have a strategy. There are some shops/industries where the best strategy is truth. In most banking/PE interviews, not so much.
My favourite way to answer the biggest weakness question is to imagine the interviewer at their job and think about what they would relate to most strongly. Then I build an answer starting with, “I get impatient/frustrated when….”
You want to pick a problem that is endemic to the industry and essentially unsolvable. One of those things people just have to live with.
You want them to think, “Yeah, that frustrates me all the time too.” It sends the signal that you’re at least aware of the challenges, which puts you ahead of many candidates.
So say I’m talking to a VP. VPs spend their lives as the axis between senior bankers and analysts/associates. If they ask what my biggest weakness is, I might say, “I get a little impatient when things take longer than I think they should. That would be fine, except it turns out the timeline I have in my mind for something is usually pretty optimistic. This is something I’m aware of and working on. So ideally in the future all my expectations would be realistic and I would do a good job of communicating them to the senior guys so there are no surprises.”
Say I’m talking to an associate. Then it might be: “I get a little impatient when I need to teach people who are new to the game. Coaching’s important, and in order to build a strong team I know we need to get people up the curve quickly. In the past I’ve occasionally let coaching slide in order to hit a tight deadline, but in the future I know I need to make time to teach people how to do something rather than churn it out quickly myself.”