What is your biggest weakness?

This is a popular interview question and one interviewees are advised to be prepared to answer. Unfortunately the answer is usually given with a positive spin: “I am a perfectionist” or “I am too forgiving of others faults” or “I am a workaholic” etc., etc., etc. None of these get to a real understanding and could paint the interviewee as a phony.

We would suggest an alternative question: “What was your biggest mistake?” Followed up with: “What lessons did you learn for this mistake?” The well prepared interviewee would be advised to think through their answers to these two questions. These questions accomplish three things, first a better understanding of the interviewees weaknesses secondly, a glimpse into their willingness to learn and grow from mistakes lastly, their depth of introspection and humility.