A common behavioral question asked in consulting interviews is the dreaded “what is your greatest weakness?” question. Unlike other behavioral or fit interview questions, this question is designed to make you think introspectively and feel particularly vulnerable.
Consulting firms ask the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question for three main reasons.
One, they want to see that you are humble and don’t have an ego. Recognizing that you have a weakness will make you appear grounded and down-to-earth. Consultants work closely in teams, so many consulting firms value this quality.
Two, this question is a test to see whether you have a growth mindset and are constantly working to improve yourself. Consultants constantly look for development opportunities to grow their skillset.
Three, this question is another way for your interviewer to assess your communications skills. Can you communicate your weakness in a clear, concise way? Is your answer believable or credible?
For these reasons, it is important to take the time to craft your answer to the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question carefully. You want to choose a weakness that will help you demonstrate these three qualities without raising any red flags to the interviewer.
If you have an upcoming consulting interview, we have you covered. In this article, we’ll cover:
- How to answer the “what’s your greatest weakness?” consulting question
- The 25 best weaknesses for a consulting interview
- Four common mistakes when answering “what’s your greatest weakness?”
How to Answer the “What's Your Greatest Weakness?” Consulting Question
As with any consulting interview question, it is always best to structure your answer. A structure will help keep your answer concise, easy to follow, and focused. We recommend using the following structure:
- Provide a one sentence, high-level summary of your greatest weakness
- Illustrate your weakness with an example
- Explain the specific steps you have taken to improve on this weakness
- Describe the tangible outcomes as a result of your improvement
- Reflect on your progress and what you have learned and what you have left to learn or practice
Providing a one sentence, high-level summary in the beginning of your answer will make the rest of your answer easier to follow. Illustrating your weakness with an example will make your answer more clear and credible.
The last three bullets in this structure helps demonstrate that you are an introspective, action-oriented person. It shows that you actively track your progress and are excited to continue growing and improving.
This simple structure will give your answer to the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question a huge edge over other candidates’ answers that are less structured.
The 25 Best Weaknesses for a Consulting Interview
Now that you understand how to answer the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question, how do you pick which weakness to share? What are the best weaknesses to mention?
There is no single right answer to this. The exact weakness that you pick does not matter as long as it meets two criteria.
One, your weakness needs to be an actual weakness, not a strength in disguise. Bringing up a strength when you are asked to provide a weakness shows that you are not humble or introspective enough to recognize your own weaknesses.
Two, the weakness you provide should be appropriate for the work setting. You don’t want to talk about weaknesses that have nothing to do with consulting or with work.
A helpful exercise to help you choose what weakness to share is to imagine yourself as a consultant working at the firm that you are interviewing for. Based on what you know about the role or the work culture, what is an improvement area that you think your manager would identify during your first job review?
Improvement areas identified by your former supervisor or manager would also make great answers.
Below are 25 examples of great weaknesses to talk about in your consulting interview:
1. Focusing too much on details and not enough on the big picture
2. Difficulty presenting effectively in front of large groups
3. Trouble working effectively with people that have different working styles
4. Difficulty recognizing when to give up on an idea and move onto something else
5. Trouble tackling ambiguous or unclear problems
6. Slow decision-making when it comes to handling important or big problems
7. Inability to fully consider other people’s thoughts and feelings when making decisions
8. Impatience when it comes to working with tight deadlines
9. Difficulty motivating oneself when team morale is low
10. Trouble delegating work to others effectively
11. Difficulty keeping track of all of the small, but important details
12. Trouble motivating others during stressful or difficult times
13. Difficulty staying organized when given too many tasks or assignments
14. Trouble giving direct feedback to others
15. Difficulty effectively analyzing large and complex datasets
16. Trouble persuading and convincing others
17. Inability to stay calm during stressful or intense situations
18. Difficult being a great listener that is fully engaged
19. Trouble exhibiting confidence in front of others
20. Inability to take calculated risks when necessary
21. Difficulty standing up for oneself when challenged by others
22. Trouble managing others effectively
23. Difficulty helping others achieve their maximum potential
24. Trouble staying focused on one thing at a time
25. Difficulty synthesizing information from multiple different sources
Four Common Mistakes When Answering “What's your Greatest Weakness?”
Mistake #1: Refusing to reveal a weakness
The worst thing you can do is tell your interviewer that you can’t think of a single weakness. This is not only hard to believe, but could make the interviewer think that you are hiding something.
Everyone has weaknesses. If you are not able to identify a single one, it shows that you are not self-aware. Remember, you are not expected to be a perfect candidate, you’ll likely improve on many of the weaknesses that you have while working in consulting.
Mistake #2: Sharing a weakness that is a strength in disguise
Don’t try to use an exaggerated strength as a weakness. This is not a real, candid answer and interviewers will roll their eyes if you give this type of answer. Examples of poor weaknesses that are actually strengths in disguise include:
- “I have a weakness of working too hard and not making time for myself”
- “I come up with too many great ideas and have difficulty choosing one to stick with”
- “I am a perfectionist that is obsessed with getting every detail right”
Providing an answer like one of the above shows that you have an ego and are not vulnerable enough to share a genuine weakness. This could raise a major red flag to your interviewer on your cultural or personality fit with the firm.
Mistake #3: Sharing a serious weakness that could raise a red flag
When sharing a weakness, you don’t want to pick a weakness that is so shocking or serious that it would immediately remove your candidacy from the applicant pool.
Examples of bad weaknesses to mention:
- “I don’t work well with people. I prefer to work on everything alone.”
- “I often find it hard to stay focused and motivated when working. I require frequent breaks and can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes straight.”
- “I find it difficult to wake up early in the morning. I typically wake up around noon every day and waking up anytime earlier is basically impossible for me.”
Remember, the best weaknesses to share with your interviewer are improvement areas that a future supervisor or manager might share with you during your first performance review on a new job.
Mistake #4: Not making your answer genuine or believable
Even if you craft the perfect answer to the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question, communicating poorly can ruin your answer.
Try to communicate expressively, putting your feelings and passion into the way that you present your answer. This will make your answer appear more genuine and believable, which goes along way in establishing rapport with your interviewer.
If you communicate in a monotone, without any feelings or interests, the interviewer may not believe your answer and is less likely to be impressed with your answer.
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