A question I am frequently asked is how to respond to the interview question, “Tell me about your weaknesses.” The traditional (and very canned) response is to take a strength and disguise it as a weakness. For example, you may say, “I’m a perfectionist, or “I’m a work-a-holic” or “I’m always early and most days I start work an hour ahead of time.” These answers are from the-interviewer-is-an-idiot school of thought, and they aren’t likely to fool anyone. You’d be better off mentioning a genuine weakness that you’ve recognized and made progress in overcoming.
For example: “I’ve had trouble delegating work in the past, but with recent cutbacks we’ve all been overloaded. So I implemented team meetings and cross-training, and I’ve had to learn to trust the people under me more than I normally would. To my surprise, production has gone up and morale is improved. It can be a blow to the ego to discover that you’re not the only competent person in the office, but it was something I needed to learn. I think it’s made me a better manager.”
This tells the interviewer three things: You’re not perfect (actually, he or she already knew that), you’re honest, and you’re able to acknowledge your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes.
Be careful about the interviewer who keeps pressing you to describe more weaknesses, however. After you’ve given one, or at the most two weakness stories, it’s entirely proper to say, “I’m sorry, that’s all I can think of right now.” Some interviewers press on this question in an attempt to find out what’s beneath the surface, and if you’re not careful, you can talk yourself into a corner.
~ Anne Follis, CPRW
© Copyright 2013, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.
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