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It's expected, a bit awkward and cliche. At some point in a job interview, a hiring manager will likely ask, "What's your biggest weakness?"

You know it's coming, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously. In fact, hiring managers use this well-worn question to gain key insights into your character. Interviewers ask about your greatest weakness because they want to hear you answer with character traits that are essential to high performance in any job.

The best responses include these four traits:

  1. Self-awareness

A good answer to this question requires some introspection. Be extremely honest with yourself about your shortcomings so that you can provide the interviewer with an authentic response. From your resume, your interviews and you references, the hiring manager already has a good idea of what your challenges are. The question is, do you?

Pinpoint a specific weakness that may have hindered your success in the past, but that you've worked to overcome. Then, be direct and transparent in your answer. Surprise them, and go there with the caveat that obviously it's best if your weakness is not central to the very success of the business.

  1. Authenticity

Hiring managers want to make sure you aren't full of it. Whatever you do, don't dodge the question by giving a tired, insincere answer that the hiring manager will likely have heard before.

Answers like 'I'm a perfectionist' or 'I'm a workaholic' are the red flags of phoniness. And no one likes to work with a phony.

  1. Discretion

Keep your answer professional and succinct. Talking about a personal weakness unrelated to work or launching into an emotional monologue are two things to make sure you avoid.

Anyone looking to add you to their team wants to know that you understand the difference between a work weakness and a personal weakness, and can talk about both with the right level of detail and maturity.

This is not the time to talk about how you manage your challenging relationship with your parents -  no boss wants to be your shrink.

  1. Initiative

Don't just explain your weakness - - show how you've grown by addressing it. Share how you are using a certain organization system, working with a coach, or taking a class to remedy the situation, and make sure your answer is truthful.

No matter what weakness you name, the important thing is what you say about what you've already done to fix it, and how you plan to continue that process in the new position.

For example, point out an area where you have some experience but not as much as the hiring manager wants, and describe what you're doing to learn more. You might say: "As it relates to this job, I would say I don't have all the client-facing experience you're seeking.  I have recently starting taking an online sales class to beef up my knowledge in this area, and I know I can balance this deficit at the outset with my analytic skills."

Like it or not, this question will most likely come up in a job interview. Be prepared: pick the weakness you're going to name beforehand, and be ready to talk about it — the right way.