Weak Examples of Weakness

Many schools will ask you or your recommenders, or both, to discuss weaknesses or areas for improvement. This can be difficult because you are walking the fine line between being honest and exposing too much. Here, as in the rest of the application, honest introspection can lead to the best answers. There are as many valid weaknesses and developmental needs as there are people. However, there are some approaches that are overused and ineffective, and just don’t work. The following summarizes the top four “bad ways to address the weakness question.”:

1) A weakness that is really a strength: “I am a perfectionist who works too hard to get everything right.”
2) A weakness that you have already addressed: “Jason was a poor public speaker, but after discussing this with him, he joined a public speaking club, read several books on the subject, and worked hard to improve. Since then, he has become one of the strongest speakers in the company”.
3) A claim that you have no weaknesses.
4) A weakness that will be cured with an MBA: “My biggest weakness is my need for formal finance training. An MBA from Stanford will definitely resolve this issue.”

While claiming that the weakness is cured does not answer the question effectively, showing that you are aware of it and working to address it is fair. Returning to the public speaing example above: “Jason’s public speaking skills can be improved upon. He and I discussed this a couple of months ago and I was impressed that his response was to join a public speaking club. He is now President of the Club and his skills are steadily improving.”

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer because of a fear of being too honest, but true self awareness is critical to success in MBA admissions. Trying to come off as perfect may actually be a window to your greatest flaw.

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