Dealing with the weakness question : What not to do

Dealing with the weakness question : What not to do

The ‘What are your weaknesses?’ question is not an ideal one for interviewers to be asking. Some of the problems inherent in this question include:

  • Many interviewees do not recognise they have a weakness in the first place. • Others perceive they have a weakness but in fact do not have one at all.
  • Some interviewees mistakenly see this question as an opportunity to demonstrate how honest they are and say much more than they should.
  • Many interviewees are extremely reluctant to be forthcoming about their weaknesses in an interview.

Despite these problems

Despite these problems, many interviewers persist in asking about your weaknesses. Your job is to learn the best way to handle such questions. At the very least, you should be minimising the potential damage and at best you should be turning the question around and demonstrating to the interviewer that you’re the sort of person who can not only overcome weaknesses, but by doing so achieve your goals.

One of the worst things you can do

One of the worst things you can do in response to answering this question is to say you don’t have any weaknesses. This would signal to the interviewer that you had lost some of your grip on reality and/or that you had a monstrous ego, neither of which would do you any favours.

Here are some other things to avoid:

  • Do not offer more than one weakness and do not set off on a monumental discourse about your failings and their possible origins. Stick to one weakness unless pressed for a second.
  • Avoid talking about personality/character type weaknesses such as impatience, quickness to anger or intolerance of mistakes. Generally speaking, these types of weakness frighten employers more than skills deficiencies. Where the latter can normally be rectified with a bit of training, personality/character type weaknesses may be less easy to remedy and more difficult to deal with.
  • Do not mention things that are really going to hurt you. Mistakes you have made in the dim past should remain in the past. Don’t go digging them up—especially if you’ve learnt the error of your ways and have moved on.

Not be applying

Hopefully, you will not be applying for jobs for which you are unsuited in the first place. If, for example, you have a great fear of heights and part of the job involves working in high locations, then you shouldn’t be wasting anybody’s time by applying. However, if the same job also requires skills that you have in abundance, feel free to ring first and tell them about your situation. The employer may value those other skills and be willing to at least talk to you. Warning: If you have committed a legal offence that may be relevant to the job you’re applying for, you should investigate what your legal obligations are in terms of disclosure before attending the interview. Avoid going on hearsay. Disclosure laws are sometimes changed and may differ from state to state.

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