Nail The Weakness Interview Question

published on 15 September 2021

Why The Weakness Question Gets Asked

As I mention in my blog post “The Amazon Principles Of Leadership Are Hiding Something Important” there’s something called being “vocally self critical” that is important at Amazon. Asking candidates to reflect on their weaknesses could, I suppose, help tease out if they have this skill.

Asking someone to talk about their weakness isn't a standard Amazon interview question. It doesn't exist in the Amazon Interview Question Bank and it's not part of the interviewer training.

However, it is really very, very common in interviews in general. And of course, Amazonians come to Amazon from other companies. Perhaps they found that type of questioning in prior roles helpful and carry it over into the Amazon interview.

So, although it's not a standard Amazon interview question, there is a good chance that you'll get asked it.

Use the Leadership Principles In Your Answer

Your interview will be assessed based on the Amazon Leadership Principles. If your response to the question about weaknesses is landed in the Leadership Principles your interviewer doesn’t have to do any mental translation and it makes it easy to use that as evidence to make a decision on you.

  • Avoid quoting the specific Amazon Leadership Principle- that can sound clumsy
  • Weave the behaviours of the Leadership Principles into your narrative

Leverage The Tensions Between Leadership Principles

Many of the Amazon Leadership Principles are at tension with each other. People often get confused by them because they seem to contradict each other.

It's purposeful. There are always tension in business decisions. You've got to make trade-offs. So, when you are giving your answer to that mistake question in your Amazon interview, think about those Leadership Principles that are at tension with each other and if you can connect them to your personal areas of weakness.

Consider Insist On The Highest Standards, it's a tension with Bias For Action. Another two at tension are Dive Deep and Deliver Results. When hen you're talking about your weakness, what you should actually do is start with talk about your strength because if you're strong in one area chances are weak in the one it is at tension with.

GG's Amazon Interview Weakness Answer

I'm really strong in Insist On The Highest Standards. I am a complete perfectionist. What that can mean is getting something out the door is a challenge for me because I always want it to be more perfect.

I would tell my interviewer that because of my very strong bias towards making everything perfect, the result is sometimes I find myself unable to take action because I always want it to be a bit better before I let it go.

Having done that, not only am I talking about a weakness, but I am very specifically explaining where I’m strong.

I've turned a negative question into a positive. But that's not the best bit of this strategy.

How Are Your Addressing Your Weakness?

What you then absolutely need to do is talk about what you’re doing to address your weakness, showing that you are being very proactive.

Let’s go back to that scenario of me. I then tell my interviewer specifically what strategies I employ to challenge myself to stop perfecting and get acting. At the start of every project I define what the launch criteria is and what I will accept as compromises to perfection. I hold myself accountable to adhering to these. Once a project is out the door I reflect on how well I adhered to my launch criteria and where I did deviate ensure I know and learn from why.

Your tensions will be different as will your mechanisms for management. But as long as you

  • Use the Leadership Principles as your platform
  • Open with your strength and explain why it leads to a weakness
  • End with how to constantly work to improve and challenge yourself on this weakness

You’ll nail your answer.

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