Nobody’s job candidate is perfect, and hiring managers know that. As a candidate, you need to focus on presenting yourself in the most positive light. Meanwhile, it’s the interviewer’s job to learn as much about you as possible – including your weaknesses.
But an interview shouldn’t feel like a game, with participants playing a verbal match of cat and mouse. It should be an honest conversation to help determine whether you are – or maybe are not – a good fit for the job.
In any interview, it’s almost certain you will be asked about your successes as well as your failures, your strengths as well as your weaknesses. So plan ahead! Be prepared to give an example and to answer follow-up questions, when asked.
Here are a few tips on putting your best foot forward, and leaving a good impression.
- Admit your weakness. It’s best to answer honestly, and succinctly. Everyone has a weakness (or two!); what’s more important is how to manage yours so it doesn’t create problems in your job, or for others.
- Be honest but avoid core skills in the job. If you’re interviewing for a position in security management, and you say your biggest weakness is your lack of patience, or details, well – it may be time to reconsider your career path. When you plan your interview responses, however, consider how your weaknesses could be interpreted to affect how well you might fulfill the job’s primary responsibilities.
- Discuss only work related weaknesses. Can’t eat just one macadamia nut cookie. Not a cat person? Afraid of heights? Leave those discussions for the company picnic. Your answers should be confined to the work environment.
- Avoid the common overused examples. “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much” are cliche. Recruiters and hiring managers see right through these answers. Part of the reason you are being asked about your weaknesses is to gage your self-awareness. Be honest, and show that you have some insight into your own character and work habits.
- Show how you have overcome your weakness. This is the most important element of your answer! Are you detail-oriented to the point that it frustrates others? Forget about describing yourself as a perfectionist and instead explain how you have changed your behavior so as to be a productive team member or leader, without sacrificing accuracy. It bears repeating: This is the most important part of your answer. Practice your response with this in mind. And speaking of practice…
- Don’t appear overly rehearsed. There’s no excuse for not being prepared for the most common interview questions. On the other hand, you don’t want to sound like you’re reciting a speech you’ve delivered 20 times, either. Prepare by thinking about the interview questions you’re most likely to be asked, and imagine your best (honest) response in a few bullet points.
As long as you prepared for your interview, and are obviously sincere answering your interviewer’s questions, chances are the “What is Your Greatest Weakness” question won’t derail your candidacy.
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