Daily Tip: Talking About Your Weaknesses

shutterstock_Khakimullin Aleksandr

Job interviewers often like to ask, “What do you consider your biggest weakness?”

Many candidates like to respond, “I work too hard,” or, “I get too passionate about projects.” They think such responses show their devotion to whatever task’s at hand. In reality, those answers are total clichés, to the point where they’ve been parodied on The Simpsons.

Job-hunting tip: Don’t give answers during interviews that have been parodied on The Simpsons.

So what’s the best answer when asked about your weaknesses? Stick to professional flaws: It’s better to say you’re not great at crunching numbers, for example, than to confess that you spark off drama way too often among your friends. Also, make sure whatever flaw you highlight won’t knock you out of contention for the job: If you’re a digital artist, it’s probably not best to state that you’ve never been great with Photoshop.

The most important part of the answer, however, involves telling the interviewer that you’re working on correcting the flaw. That shows you’re a proactive, take-charge type—not to mention a self-aware one.

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Image: Khakimullin Aleksandr/Shutterstock.com

10 Responses to “Daily Tip: Talking About Your Weaknesses”

  1. I use the question to help myself screen out people who need a different skill set than what I have to offer. Yeah, I won’t get the job, but I won’t get the disaster I’d have if I took the job, either.

    In my general lines of work (business analysis and project management), there are two types of expertise: functional and technical. I tell interviewers that I am more functional than technical and then add, “on the functional side, I’m excellent.”

    Someone who seriously needs a hardcore techie knows I’m not a match, so I don’t get a job where I’m guaranteed to fail. Someone who needs a business rules expert knows I’m likelier to find the information they need better than a techie would.

  2. I have an unusual situation: When I am highly qualified, have great experiences, and am a great professional and personal fit for a non-labor intensive management position, do I, or how do you recommend I talk about being in a wheelchair/scooter? Thank you.

    • Some ideas might be:

      1. I am a military vet and was injured on my last tour at Iraq, which means I have to use a wheelchair to get around.

      2. I was a champion skier but an accident put me in a wheelchair and I’m working on my recovery.

      Ofcourse you have to state the real reason, not made up one, but you can put a positive spin on it and make it work to your advantage.

      “… this means I can save you the expense of an expensive Aeron chair for my cube!” This should get a laugh from the interviewers and break the tension.

      I would stress that you mention there is no special accomodation besides an elevator that you need. It helps to mention some positives: you are a wheelchair athlete, technical expert, very well-read on technical issues, etc. There are positives in every situation and every perceived liability can be presented as an asset with the right slant.

      • It’s disheartening that even today, well-intentioned people think that it’s necessary to be someone extraordinary (veteran, champion skier) in order to make using an wheelchair acceptable. A wheelchair user overcomes more stuff before breakfast than most of the able-bodied will in a week.

        There is nothing to explain, any more than I need to “explain” my race or my gender. I don’t bring up the fact that I use a wheelchair until the first interview, and then only if I’m not certain the venue is accessible. Once I’m there they can make the same judgments about me that they make about any candidate: am I fit or out of shape? well groomed or slovenly? intense or unfocused?

        I agree with Martine, if there’s something extraordinary in my background and I’m comfortable talking about it, then yes, I’ll work that into the conversation. It might even be the story about how I ended up in a wheelchair. I might say a light-hearted sentence about it if I sense my interviewer feels awkward, but beyond that, only if it relates directly to the job.

  3. This question should just be stopped. Its stupid, its way past its usefulness date and should be used to screen out places you would not want to work at. It tells the interviewer nothing of value, and everyone who answers this is either lying, or just trying to get past the question. What’s the point of it? Anyone who interviews and uses canned questions, questions that you have been told to ask during an interview, or simply can’t have an adult conversation, should be screened out as a place to work. A good interview should be a conversation between adults, not a test of questions to see how well you finesse answers. How about this is what I need to get done. Can you do this? How would you do this? Let it go from there.