When you write about weakness in an MBA Application essay, focus on real weakness, the consequence, realization and how you were able to fix it. The weaknesses can be related to skill or limited exposure to team dynamics. Whatever be your weakness, do not cite the ones that show lack of maturity, leadership, or communication. Some elements of weaknesses in these three areas can be mentioned in your essay, but the very reason that you are writing about your weakness in an objective manner shows your maturity. Only leaders invite criticism and work hard on their weaknesses. By writing openly about your shortcomings, you are highlighting your traits as a leader.
For a complete list of leadership traits that you should highlight in your MBA Application Essay, Download F1GMAT’s Winning MBA Essay Guide
The weakness essay follows a simple trajectory
Weakness (Real Weakness) -> Consequences (Loss of Account/Revenue/Missed Deadlines) -> Realization (Feedback from Managers/Observation about the loss) -> Work on Weakness (Corrective Action) -> Results (Win Back a Client/Exceeding Expectations/Life Lesson)
If you want help creating a structured essay like the simple trajectory shown above, complete the form here.
Dos and Don’ts for MBA Weakness Essay
1. Identify your real weakness
Understanding weakness from an MBA Applications point of view is critical in identifying your real weakness. Stating trivial personal weakness will not help you. Dig deep and find instances in your career where you have not bonded well with the team due to mistrust, lack of coordination, favoritism, or poorly defined roles. It’s easy to blame colleagues or team leaders for your shortcoming. Avoid the temptation and own up to your mistakes.Read about eight Leadership traits that you should promote in your essays (Starting from Page 67)
2. Consequence of your weakness
It is hard to write about the impact of your sub-standard work, but only an objective leader can look at their shortcomings in dollar value. Leaders want to know how their weaknesses translate to the bottom line of the company. If you mistrusted your team members and took up the major chunk of the work that resulted in project delay – calculate the dollar value of the delay. Let’s say three-day delay cost the company $15,000. How did it impact the trust between the client and the company? Find out how to write about "Trust" - a leadership quality that should be highlighted in your essay.
Only in worst cases would you be asked to leave after one failure. It would not be ideal to include weaknesses that led to your firing. But in almost all major botch ups, the supervisor will give one on one feedback on what happened and how the problem would have been averted. Even though at that time, it might have seemed too personal for any reflective analysis, later in your career, you would have taken extra steps not to repeat the same mistake. What feedback did you receive? How did you feel after the conversation? Most engaging essays follows a W Pattern. Learn how to use W pattern for your weakness essay(Page 34 - F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay Guide)
4. Work on Weakness
Weakness essay is not just a sincerity test; it also checks whether you are pro-active or reactive to failures. A reactive applicant’s tone would be too defensive while a pro-active applicant accepts the weakness and works on it head-on without any excuses. Admission team wants to know how you would improve your skills once a weakness is brought to your notice. Do you take help from colleagues or supervisor? Are you more of a self-learner or do you ignore the feedback? Applicants who are not bound by false pride, and openly ask for help find favor in the MBA Admission process. After all, learning in an MBA class happens mostly through each other. There is no point in stating weakness for which you have hardly taken any concrete steps. Understand the importance of context before writing essays (Page 19 - F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay Guide)
Another metric that interests the Admission team is the results. Once you declare your weaknesses and articulate how you reacted and felt after your shortcomings were made known, reveal the results achieved with the corrective action. The results need not be completely in a tangible format like revenue, future cash flow, and bonuses, but the impact on team spirit and quality of output should be articulated.
1. Do not mention the weakness like ‘I am a perfectionist’
You might have adopted a strategy to use strengths as a weakness. This might have worked in early 2000, but the admission committee has seen many essays with a similar strategy. It shows that you are not sincere about addressing your weakness. The last thing you want to do is to show that you have not done due diligence in addressing your real weakness.
2. Do not mention the weakness like ‘I am a workaholic”
This is another strength disguised as a weakness. Although you have to show how committed you are towards achieving your goals, direct mentions like “workaholic” will be taken in a negative context. MBA is not just about completing your tasks in the prescribed time; it is about teamwork and networking.
In the following example, the weakness is "Trust.”
“As far as my professional drawbacks is concerned; I have a tendency to “Do the entire task on my own.” I feel that starting my career as a software developer has habitually made me take charge of the entire solution. However, I had to pay a bigger price in one of the projects, where in trying to develop the functionality on my own, the project was delayed by two weeks. It costs the company $15000 in lost revenue. Although as an individual contributor I had generated over 1.2 million dollars in revenue, $15k was still a big number. Understandably, my project manager was not thrilled with my performance. On retrospect, I feel that creative aspirations, mistrust and the need to control had made me take up the ownership of the entire functionality. I realized the importance of delegation and trust during the course of my career. When you see how your team members are able to perform the tasks allocated to them, you will begin to trust them. That is exactly what happened to me. I began to trust my team members and it changed my outlook towards my team and my responsibilities. Their output improved considerably, and it had a positive impact on my career. I was able to come up with unique solutions not because I came up with all the ideas on my own but because I was lucky to receive a bigger pool of ideas from my teammates. Some of the solutions that we created were the result of hours of brainstorming and prototyping. My team played a crucial role in retaining at least two major accounts for our company.”
Weakness: Lack of trust (mistrust).
Action due to weakness: Do the entire task on my own
Consequence: Delayed project, lost revenue & criticism from the project manager
Realization: Importance of delegation and trust
Positive Action: Task Delegation
Positive Results: Improved efficiency, creative solutions and high team spirit
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By the Monster Career Coach
Marie is about to interview two candidates for the customer service manager position. Her candidates are Francine and William. As always, she plans to ask about their strengths and weaknesses.
Francine answers the question, "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?" with, "My strength is that I'm a hard worker. My weakness is that I get stressed when I miss a deadline because someone else dropped the ball."
This answer is unimaginative. Most people think of themselves as hard workers.
William has difficulty with the question. "I really can't think of a weakness," he begins. "Maybe I could be more focused. My strength is probably my ability to deal with people. I am pretty easygoing. I usually don't get upset easily."
This answer leads with a negative, and then moves to vague words: maybe, probably, pretty and usually.
So what is the best way to answer this question?
Assessing Your Strengths
Assess your skills, and you will identify your strengths. This is an exercise worth doing before any interview. Make a list of your skills, dividing them into three categories:
1. Knowledge-based skills: Acquired from education and experience (e.g., computer skills, languages, degrees, training and technical ability).
2. Transferable skills: Your portable skills that you take from job to job (e.g., communication and people skills, analytical problem solving and planning skills).
3. Personal traits: Your unique qualities (e.g., dependable, flexible, friendly, hard working, expressive, formal, punctual and being a team player).
When you complete this list, choose three to five of those strengths that match what the employer is seeking in the job posting. Make sure you can give specific examples to demonstrate why you say that is your strength if probed further.
Assessing Your Weaknesses
This is probably the most dreaded part of the question. Everyone has weaknesses, but who wants to admit to them, especially in an interview?
The best way to handle this question is to minimize the trait and emphasize the positive. Select a trait and come up with a solution to overcome your weakness. Stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more on professional traits. For example:
"I pride myself on being a 'big picture' guy. I have to admit I sometimes miss small details, but I always make sure I have someone who is detail-oriented on my team."
Scripting Your Interview Answers
Write a positive statement you can say with confidence:
"My strength is my flexibility to handle change. As customer service manager at my last job, I was able to turn around a negative working environment and develop a very supportive team. As far as weaknesses, I feel that my management skills could be stronger, and I am constantly working to improve them."
When confronted with this question, remember the interviewer is looking for a fit. She is forming a picture of you based on your answers. A single answer will probably not keep you from getting the job, unless, of course, it is something blatant. Put your energy into your strengths statement -- what you have to offer. Then let the interviewer know that although you may not be perfect, you are working on any shortcomings you have.