Finding Strength in Your Weaknesses

A recent entry on the admissions blog at Simon Graduate School of Business takes a look at how to handle the dreaded “What are your areas of weakness?” question as part of your business school application or interview. Many applicants try to spin the question so that the weakness is actually a strength in disguise, but according to Dana Eagle in the admissions office, this is a real missed opportunity.

“There is no shame in admitting the areas that you need to improve; after all, if you had no areas of improvement, you would probably already be a CEO.”

Candidates should know that revealing their weaknesses to the admissions committee helps determine their fit with the school, Eagle says. ” I can honestly tell you that some of the most refreshing and enlightening conversations I have had were those in which the candidate has highlighted their areas of potential growth (weaknesses), and how those areas will be improved upon by completing graduate study.”

Honestly is expected and appreciated, though applicants would do well to remember to maintain professionalism and make sure any weaknesses addressed pertain to business and your career growth.  “Avoid the blame game, or finger pointing in why you may be lacking in certain areas,” says Eagle, who encourages applicants to focus on the future and what you plan to do to lessen your short comings and head for success in your MBA studies.

An article on the weakness essay question by QS Top MBA notes that not admitting to a weakness will likely get you dinged by admissions.

“If you ”˜have no weaknesses’ that just tells the admissions committee that you don’t know what they are yet or that you’re too immature to face them. It says you don’t know yourself, therefore you don’t yet know where you will mess up. You are a liability to yourself and your company.”

The ability to discuss your weaknesses candidly is a strength in itself. In general, MBA programs are seeking smart, dedicated and self-aware students who are able to see themselves clearly and improve and adapt when necessary. Your own ability to understand the areas you might be able to improve is a great way to demonstrate this ability to self-assess.

Your weaknesses may just set you apart from other applicants, and not always in a negative way.  “A sound understanding of why you are pursuing graduate study, and how specifically the school to which you are applying will help you to develop your weaknesses to achieve your short and long term career aspirations is in fact a way to strengthen an application,” Eagle says.

For more advice on addressing strengths and weaknesses within the MBA application, read these Tuesday Tips.

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