“Do I have to?” That’s what you might be thinking when asked to share your weaknesses in a job interview. That’s understandable. Why would anyone want to share bad things about themselves when they’re trying to impress someone?
But this information is important to your recruiter or hiring manager. It can give insight into your work style so they can help accommodate that. It can show your resiliency in how you compensate for a weakness, and it reveals a lot about your character — including whether you’re honest and humble enough to admit a real weakness.
Still, you don’t want to say something awful and blow it. To find out how to discuss your weaknesses in a job interview without ruining your chances for the job, we spoke to Sabrina Baker, founder and HR consultant with Acacia HR Solutions, in Los Angeles.
Here’s how she suggests you get through this sticky part of the interview.
“I care too much.”
“I work too hard.”
“I take work home.”
Those aren’t really weaknesses, and recruiters and hiring managers will see right through this attempt to humblebrag about your work ethic instead of genuinely answering the question, Baker says. (Or some will question why you didn’t finish all your work during the day and needed to take it home.) Either way, these kind of answers won’t help you.
Instead, Baker suggests stating a genuine weakness and immediately giving an example about how you deal with it.
“I’m not detail-oriented,” Baker says. “I like thinking about the big picture, the future. I mention how when I have a project where I know details are important, I force myself to slow down and think about it. Then I double and triple check, which isn’t natural to me. This is how I overcome that.”
Yes, be honest and mention a genuine weakness. But there’s nothing that says you have to blurt out your worst one.
“Be strategic,” Baker says. “No one will hire an accountant whose weakness is math. Pick one that’s honest and that you think they can live with.”
Are there any weaknesses that will ruin your chances every single time? Yes, Baker says. “Communication issues, inability to get along with people or anything that diminishes your ability to work in a team is bad,” she says. If you have to mention something like this, downplay it as much as possible, use it to show some self-awareness and share how you work on it.
An example Baker shared: Rather than saying you don’t work well in a team, say something like “I’m a bit introverted. I work well alone and excel when I can focus and think things through very thoroughly. But when I need to, I can turn on the extrovert switch and work well with others also.”
If ever there was a classic interview trope, asking about strengths and weaknesses is it. These questions are largely guaranteed in every single interview — and that means you can prepare ahead of time.
“Practice in front of the mirror, the dog, your spouse or anyone willing to listen so you have those answers ready to go like a reflex,” Baker says. This is a good one to get into a pattern so you don’t have to come up with an answer during the interview, she says.
Save your brain power and valuable interview time on questions you weren’t expecting that will require more energy in the moment. You never know when an interviewer will want to know which superhero you most identify with.
Everyone brings some assumptions, baggage or hang-ups to an interview. Everyone’s had bad experiences, and while you and the employer are surely hoping for the best, people may still be cautious.
For most employers and recruiters, Baker says, this bit about your weaknesses is a quick question. They want a quick answer and then they move on. But, “if they’re dwelling too much on the negative, or they keep digging despite you telling them an honest example and how you overcame it, they may not believe you,” she says.
It’s also possible they’ve had past issues with the position you’re hiring for, or with someone with a similar weakness, she says. “If they belabor the point too much, this is a red flag and you may want to gently ask about it so you can be aware of this employer’s specific concerns,” Baker says.
Louisiana Job Connection is a full-service employment hub. Complete your profile today and let Louisiana Job Connection match you with a job that’s tailored for your skills and experience.