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How to Describe Weaknesses in a Job Interview

Shaking hands

Shaking handsHuman resources professionals, recruiters and others who interview job applicants seem to have a fondness for that much-dreaded question about how you would describe your own weaknesses. As much as those hiring love to ask the question, almost every job seeker hates to answer it. Describe your weaknesses is a double-edged sword of a question. There is no one right answer to it. However it is definitely one of the most important questions you will face in a job interview.

Before a job interview it is critical to have a response ready for the weakness question. Failing to answer the question or giving a lame off-the-cuff answer will not cut it. Those who are hiring know that the weakness question is no secret and therefore they expect you to have a prepared response.

When describing weaknesses in a job interview, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don’t describe perfectionism as a weakness. Once thought to be the perfect answer, it is overused and is clichéd.
  • All humans have weaknesses, including the person interviewing you, therefore choose to describe an actual weakness that you have and give real examples. However, be wary about which weakness you choose to divulge. Do not mention weaknesses that make you look like an absolute terrible choice as an employee. Avoid talking about mental instability or things that would make someone question your values, morals and integrity. The weakness however should be one that is work-relevant.
  • Be sure to mention exactly how you are working to overcome your weakness. It shows great character that you are self-aware enough to be conscious of your weaknesses and have a plan for overcoming or compensating for them.
  • Describing past weaknesses and showing how you have overcome them is always a great way to treat this question.

Remember to keep in mind the type of job you are applying for and the skills required for it. Mentioning the fact that you are non-confrontational may not be a plus for someone in a customer service type of position, but may be okay for a computer programmer. Being talkative may be a drawback for an accountant or actuary. However, it is definitely a plus for a salesperson. Choosing a weakness that is actually a strength in disguise for the job you are applying on is a very smart tactic.

Some weaknesses that are acceptable to divulge, depending on the job you are applying for and the way you present them include the following:
–    Competitive
–    Impatient
–    Too Demanding
–    Lack of Organization
–    Not Detail Oriented
–    Critical
–    Sensitive

When dealing with the weakness question in a job interview, above all be honest. It is easy to detect lies, especially for those who frequently interview potential job candidates. Have a great answer ready and answer the question with confidence. After all, we really do all have weaknesses. Being able to admit to it and show your dedication to self-improvement proves that you are great employee material.

2 Comments

  1. Alexis H. Jones

    Thanks for this post. You are definitely right, that question is very common when in comes to job interview. I would also suggest that job applicants must also be aware on the weaknesses they are mentioning to the interviewee. I don’t think it can be a good idea to divulge all of your weakness. Job applicants need to be selective on those traits. They must also assure that they don’t point weaknesses that may pull them down from the list. For example, if a job seeker is applying for a customer service position then he or she must not tell the interviewer that he/she is sensitive especially in dealing with irate customers. Well, these applicants must not tell their interviewee that they don’t have weaknesses because it is pretty insane thing to do!

  2. Doug

    Unless your interviewer is an idiot, “Choosing a weakness that is actually a strength in disguise…” is a terrible tactic. They are professionals, don’t insult them.
    The question is present in interviews because it’s a valid one. And it’s an opportunity for the interviewee to display their self-awareness and that they understand the employer’s concerns. Practice an answer for it and you’ll be perceived as honest and unafraid.

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