Taking the next step in your nursing career is an exciting journey. You’ve polished your resume, gathered stellar recommendations, and nailed the primary questions you might face in a nursing interview. But then, it happens – the dreaded question: “What is your weakness?” In the high-pressure environment of a nursing interview, this question can be really intimidating and, let’s be honest, sweat-inducing.
How can you answer honestly while still impressing your potential employer? Fear not, we’ve got you covered! In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to respond to what is your weakness in a nursing interview with confidence and finesse, ensuring you leave a lasting and positive impression.
Understand the Purpose of the Question
Try putting yourself in the shoes of the recruiter to understand why they are asking you about your weaknesses in the first place. This question is ultimately a test of self-awareness. They want to know that you can conduct a self-assessment, and that you can constructively talk about your skills, and not just your positive skills and traits, but also your weaknesses. They also need to know if you will fit harmoniously with the rest of the team, and these types of questions bring out a bit of your personality. According to the specialists from Coursera, providing a real work environment example, in which you can show how you are working to improve your weaknesses can be very helpful for surviving this question.
Selecting the Right Weakness
According to Forbes, when choosing a weakness try to be honest but also steer clear of showcasing a weakness that might lead the recruiter or hiring manager to question your qualifications and capabilities. Also, they recommend gathering some information and doing a reflection on your performance in previous jobs to find a good and realistic answer. This is the information they suggest you should think about and make notes to find your answer:
- List valuable insights or suggestions to improve your work that have been provided by your supervisor or team members in the past
- Write the areas for growth pinpointed in your most recent performance review
- List the skills you would like to work on in your next job
Additionally, Harvard Business Review advises preparing 2 possible answers for each question and avoiding trite answers because you want to stand out by picking an original answer, without self-sabotaging your job application. They also caution against the common cliché response of perfectionism or being a workaholic as a weakness, so don’t use these nurses! Find something else.
Again, we want to avoid self-sabotage, so don’t choose a skill listed in the job posting to answer that specific question. Here’s some game changing advice that was given in that Harvard article: opt for skills that can be improved through training or dedication. Learnable skills like software, fear of public speaking, typing slowly, taking more time to do a specific type of task, or difficulty with delegation are all good examples. Keep in mind, behavioral traits might seem more difficult to change, so try not to use them.
Crafting Your Response
When crafting your response try to keep the weakness short and simple, explaining the minor consequences of that.
Next, talk about how you are working on improving this.
And lastly, say how would you continue to improve it if you get the job, adding that you will request feedback from your supervisor to know if it seems to be improving.
Using the STAR method to answer this and other questions can also be helpful; the acronym means:
- Situation: give context about where and when this happened.
- Task: give details about the task assigned and why it was assigned to you.
- Action: explain what you did.
- Result: talk about the results (and in this case what you learned or would do differently next time).
Addressing Weaknesses Specific to Nursing
- Handling Stress and Pressure:
- Nursing is a demanding profession that often involves high-stress situations. Addressing a potential weakness in handling stress and pressure correctly is crucial. In your response, emphasize your ability to remain calm and focused during high-pressure situations, but acknowledge that this is something you are continuously working on and improving. Discuss any coping strategies you’ve developed, such as mindfulness techniques, time management, or delegation of tasks. When giving examples of when you’ve messed up in this area, make sure the outcome of your misstep was not a big deal and didn’t put a patient’s care in danger. You can also, for contrast, highlight experiences where you successfully managed stress and ensured the safety and comfort of your patients as a result of your efforts to improve in this area.
- Time Management and Organizational Challenges:
- Nursing is a profession where time management and organizational skills are paramount. Patients’ lives often depend on timely care and accurate record-keeping. When addressing weaknesses in time management and organizational skills, same thing, be honest about your challenges and then focus on your efforts to improve. Discuss any tools or methods you’ve adopted to enhance your organizational abilities, such as using electronic health records or time management apps. Provide examples of situations where you struggled with time management but eventually excelled due to your dedication to improvement. Interviewers appreciate candidates who acknowledge their weaknesses and actively work on them.
Role Play: Sample Responses for Weakness in a Nursing Interview
Here are some sample responses along with an analysis of what makes them effective or ineffective:
- Sample Response 1 (Effective): “I realized that I sometimes tend to be overly critical of my work. While it’s important to maintain high standards in nursing, I’ve learned that being excessively self-critical can occasionally slow down my workflow. To address this, I’ve been working on striking a balance between self-assessment and efficiency. I’ve found that asking for feedback from peers and supervisors helps me gain a more objective perspective on my work, and that change in perspective has allowed me to improve without over-analyzing.”
- Analysis: This response is effective; it acknowledges a weakness (being overly critical) but presents it in a way that emphasizes self-awareness and a proactive approach to improvement. The candidate also highlights their ability to seek feedback, which is a valuable trait in nursing.
- Sample Response 2 (Ineffective): “I guess one of my weaknesses is that I’m disorganized. I’ve always been that way, and it’s hard for me to keep everything in order. But I don’t think it’s a big deal, and I manage somehow.”
- Analysis: This response is ineffective; it admits a weakness (disorganization) but does not demonstrate a willingness to address or improve the issue. It also lacks a proactive approach, and the candidate even downplays the significance of the weakness. This type of response does not leave a positive impression.
Preparing for Follow-Up Questions
If they ask you for more examples, be ready with another relevant weakness you can use and highlight your progress in overcoming this challenge. Conclude your answer with enthusiasm, pointing out your commitment to growth, and ask for feedback from the interviewer if appropriate. Also, remember to keep the examples related to the nursing profession when possible.
If you would like more information regarding questions for nursing interviews, some tips, and specific questions for new grad nurses, click here.
Practice and Mock Interviews
There are several solid reasons to practice for interviews, and some are the following:
- Building Confidence: When you repeatedly answer questions about your weaknesses or strengths, you become more comfortable with the interview process and with your answers. This increased confidence can help you remain composed during the actual interview.
- Refining Responses: You can experiment with different ways of framing your weaknesses, ensuring that your answers are concise and relevant, and convey your self-awareness and commitment to growth effectively.
- Overcoming Nervousness: Interviews can be nerve-wracking, especially when you’re discussing your weaknesses. Practice helps you manage nervousness and anxiety. It’s an opportunity to develop strategies to stay calm under pressure.
- Receiving Feedback: If possible, practice with a trusted friend or family member who can provide constructive feedback. They can point out areas for improvement and help you fine-tune your responses. Honest feedback is invaluable in your preparation.
Please practice, practice, and practice some more until you can answer with confidence like a pro. Grab a trusted friend or family member and go for it!
Aspen University has a set of frequent questions and sample answers for nursing interviews if you’re looking for more guidance on how to ace your nursing interviews.
With the right strategy and preparation, you can turn this seemingly tricky question, related to weakness in a nursing interview, into an opportunity to showcase your self-awareness, dedication to improvement, and suitability for the role. Remember, it’s not about being flawless; it’s about demonstrating your ability to adapt, grow, and excel in the nursing field. Best of luck to you!