Knowing Your Weaknesses Can Improve Your B-School Candidacy

“What is your greatest weakness?”

It’s the interview question all of us know (and many dread) because it can feel like a trap. After all, you’ve just spent your entire application process—résumé , essay, interview—attempting  to emphasize your strengths. Why would you reveal your areas of weakness to the Admissions Committee?

Prepare for your interview by identifying how the school to which you are applying can help you develop the skills needed to make you a well-rounded professional.

Prepare for your interview by identifying how the school to which you are applying can help you develop the skills needed to make you a well-rounded professional.

Because self-awareness is a good thing. Admissions representatives ask questions like these to hear you describe the areas where you have room to grow and how their school will help you bolster skills and achieve your career goals. Another reason to speak candidly? Suggested areas of improvement are sometimes communicated in letters of recommendation. It’s much better for you to take ownership of your strengths and weaknesses in the interview process, rather than having the information only revealed to the Admissions Committee by a third party.

Many interviewees agonize over crafting the “perfect response” by choosing weaknesses that may also be considered strengths, such as “I work too hard” or “I struggle with perfectionism.” In reality, some of the most refreshing and enlightening conversations are with candidates who can identify their weaknesses and are able to articulate how graduate study will help them improve.

There is a reason that the business school admissions application and interview process is very similar to the job application and interview process. Ultimately, the Admissions Committee is trying to assess your candidacy and fit for their program, but they are also evaluating what type of colleague and team member you will be after you graduate. There is no shame in admitting that there are areas where you need to improve, and being able to recognize this will make you a better leader not only in the classroom, but in the board room as well.

Instead of spending your time framing your weaknesses as strengths, make sure you have a thorough understanding of how the program to which you are applying will complement your current skill set and will help you develop in other areas to become a well-rounded professional. Being honest with yourself in determining your shortcomings will not only help you identify what you need from your graduate experience, but it will also help the Admissions Committee to better understand your reasoning for wanting a business degree and how their program offerings and support on campus will benefit you.

Keep in mind that the areas for personal growth you discuss in your interview should be relevant to business, career growth, and academic preparation in the classroom. While honesty is encouraged, professionalism is a must.  Avoid the blame game and finger-pointing. Instead, concentrate on the future and how you plan to achieve success in your MBA or MS study.

Rather than hiding behind your weaknesses, use them to your advantage. Be honest with your interviewer, and yourself, about why business school is where you want to be. The Admissions Committee will consider this level of clarity a strength in your overall candidacy, and understanding what you want and need from your education will ensure that you end up at the business school that is the best fit for you.

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  1. Shan Lin says:

    A warm and helpful article!