The Career Mastery: What are your weaknesses?

thank-you-letter-1-630x315Deniz Sasal (Executive MBA, 2013) currently works for PwC Consulting, and has started his own careers blog that will “share valuable insider information that most hiring managers wouldn’t share”.

We have been allowed to publish extracts from the blog. You can read more on

What are your weaknesses?

Let me start by saying your greatest weakness is your greatest weakness. It’s not your greatest strength taken to extreme and portrait as a weakness. Anybody asks what are your weaknesses, you tell them out loud…

Am I confusing you?

Let me explain; I have come across way too many HR professionals recommending that you should just take your greatest strength, take it to extreme, and then say that it’s your weakness.

Like; my greatest weakness is that;

– I work too hard
– I am a perfectionist
– I don’t delegate as much as I should
– I am a people pleaser
– I am very critical of my own work

Please… Stop! Seriously, what are you trying to do?

I am Deniz Sasal. I am a manager with PwC Consulting and have been interviewing 1000s of candidates for the past 10 years as a hiring manager. If you mention one of the above, then I will immediately label you as a bullshitter.

What else do you think I will feel?

I will feel that you will continue to BS me in every opportunity you get. There is simply no reason for me to hire a team member, especially a subordinate whom will try to bs her way through tough times. Of all the qualities you have, your hard skills, your dedication, that college degree you studied so hard to obtain were all so you could be known as a bullshitter? I am confident that the answer is no. I understand why you are confused though. I really do.

You make a search on Google “What are your weaknesses?” and all the answers you are exposed to tell you to trick the interviewer. They tell you that you should look for a weakness that is not too extreme or a strength in disguise. I hope with this article I help change that notion.

In the world of consulting, we are challenged with deadlines and quality deliverables on a daily basis. It’s tough out there. It’s also same with large multinational companies, be it investment banking, consumer goods, marketing, sales, anything. A large MNC didn’t get to be the number 1 with lazy employees. Clients are demanding and competition is fierce. Whoever is not up to the challenge gets lost. In these high-intensity environments, leaders need soldiers who will fight with them as one united team. There are no lies or bullshits in such a team. There are no acts no pretends.

Imagine, one profession that works in such intensity is army. Do you think they go about asking “what are your weaknesses?” before enlisting? No, not at all… They don’t. So, when we are looking for new additions to such an environment, we make sure we are confident we can trust you to deliver that research when you say it at the quality you committed to. There are no excuses, buts, uhmms, “this or that happened”s.

It’s not about “what are your weaknesses?” or “what are your shortcomings?”, it’s about them giving you an opportunity to prove your honesty. I hope I am being clear when I say how honesty plays an integral role in your interview process.

I have a checklist. It goes like this;

Is she trustworthy?
Can she say sorry when she messes up? Learns from it, and then moves on with lessons learned?
Is she honest?
Is she motivated to work hard for the team?
If the answer is “YES” so far then only we move on to evaluate the hard skills.

And I test you to understand whether you are trustworthy or not. I can increase the pressure and use your answers against you.

Look for inconsistencies in your answers

Try to make you say sorry. Are you adult enough to say sorry when you need to? Or is it a pride issue?

Am I dealing with self-entitlement here? Because, if you are suffering from it, I suggest you work on it before you start interviewing with anyone. It will be obvious.

It’s mind games at its best. And you were asked a very simple question under pressure; what are your weaknesses? If you can’t answer this honestly, you sure will not answer honestly once we start working together.

Alright, I hope so far it’s clear for you. You know now that the first thing you need to establish is honesty. But how do you answer that question? After all, you did indeed search “what are your weaknesses” and ended up in my article to find an answer. Good. Let’s get to it.

What are your weaknesses? Here is what I say.

First; be specific. There are about a billion weaknesses I can list down here but without knowing your domain, background, and experience it’s very difficult. But, what I thought is, I could share with you my very own weaknesses and perhaps they may also relate to you as well. Sounds good? Alright here it goes;

My first weakness: Although I am very good with applications of powerpoint, its tools and functions, I am not the best when it comes to designing the slides.

This is true. I really am not a good designer. I can’t design a slide based on what I have in my head. But luckily, PwC has probably the best slide library in the world. So, all I have to do is go through about 400 slides and pick the best template. To be perfectly honest, even if I were great at it, I am not sure if I would be allowed to take initiative and design my slides anyway. Consulting companies invest millions of dollars to make sure they have the best colors and layout.

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