How to Talk About Your Weaknesses at a Job Interview
One of the most dreaded questions asked during an interview should actually be one of the easiest to answer, “What are your greatest weaknesses?” Do you know how to talk about your weaknesses at a job interview?
It Takes Courage to Talk About Your WeaknessesWith a bit of information and preparation you may be able to dive into your weak spots during the meeting to portray your honesty and determination to an employer. Now obviously everyone has failings of some sort, so to act like you don't would be ridiculous and could tarnish your credibility.
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A Plan to Talk About Your WeaknessesAs you sit down for a job interview, fully prepared to answer anything and everything related to the job, company, and yourself, you are hoping to make a positive and lasting impression on the hiring manager. A question about your failings is surely not one that you will be able to answer comfortably. Many applicants feel that when they are asked a questions like this, it is a trap; the manager must want to see if they will crack under pressure. While that may be one tactic employed by asking this question that is not its primary purpose. How to talk about your weaknesses at a job interview is important because your failings can be turned around to become a strength.
So how can answering a question that goes against your best interests possibly be a good idea? Interviewers are expecting this honesty, and if you do not answer appropriately they will not accept it.
For years there had been advice for answering this difficult question, that being when you were put on the spot it was suggested that you respond with a vague but positive answer. For example, stating that you are a perfectionist, or you work too hard seems conceited and false.
Managers know that as human beings we all have our flaws. When you give one of those positive answers you are conveying to the recruiter that you don't really want to give them a sincere answer about something that truly detracts from your personal growth. It also shows that you may not strive to improve yourself as employees should continually do.
While you should be honest in your answer, remember that employers are still looking for specifics. When it comes to describing your failings there are a few guidelines that you should stick to.
- Make a List
First, come to terms with that fact that having weaknesses is not always a bad thing; they can demonstrate that you have something to work toward, and something that you will accomplish. Think about some of your weak spots and make a list. If you have trouble doing this, ask yourself questions regarding your previous work experiences:
- What have I always struggled with?
- What negative aspects of my job performance have past managers or coworkers brought to my attention?
- Is there a specific character trait that I would like to change to improve my work performance?
- Formulate a Response
Now that you have a pinpointed answer to your question, you need to know the way to phrase your answer into something that makes you seem appealing to the employer. There are certain things that you shouldn't say. Here are a few examples:
What not to say: “I have trouble controlling my temper, sometimes I get very angry in heated situations.”
Stating your weakness in this way it makes you seem unstable and potentially dangerous or unproductive. Avoid talking about your personality traits in this way. If at all possible, relate everything back to the workplace.
What to say: “I have trouble because I put a lot of pressure on myself as I complete tasks. I have been working on this and have come up with an organized system to help me get things done more efficiently.” This doesn't sound nearly as bad, and it focuses more on work. Also, a response regarding the ways you have attempted to improve yourself should always be included in every answer that you give.
What not to say: “I am not a very organized person.”
This answer is too blunt and honest, and it doesn't mention anything in respect to your personal growth and development.
What to say: “I have noticed that the ways I used to do things were not the most organized. However, I now write everything down and stick to a system which allows me to better control everything that I handle in the office.” Not only have you explained a method of self-improvement, but you have provided an honest, yet gentle response to this question.
- What not to say: “I have trouble controlling my temper, sometimes I get very angry in heated situations.” Stating your weakness in this way it makes you seem unstable and potentially dangerous or unproductive. Avoid talking about your personality traits in this way. If at all possible, relate everything back to the workplace.
- Improvise as Needed
After you have prepared the rebuttal that is necessary to answer this question, it is up to the hiring manager to decide if they feel your individual weaknesses will not affect their plans. You may need to improvise where needed, you don't want your response to sound robotic and rehearsed. While you should have a solid idea of what you are going to say, go into the meeting and explain your weak points in a conversation.