Thursday, July 07, 2005
Revealing Your Weaknesses In An Interview
This is the tricky question which causes many job seekers to squirm in their chairs. The usual advice is to select a weakness that masquerades as a strength: "I'm a little too driven. I just hate not completing a project early and tend to work long hours until it's done." "I'm afraid I'm a bit of a perfectionist but doing something right, the first time, has always been a big priority with me." "I have a problem handling being late. Sometimes it bugs people that I tend to be the first person at a meeting or always come to work a little early. I just find it more comfortable not to have to rush at the last minute."
If these work well for you, continue to use them whenever you wish. Another approach you might want to consider is an attempt to humanize the conversation. We are well aware that interviews tend to be formal, overly polite, and downright stiff. The atmosphere can warm up with your genuine disclosure of a real weakness (which we all have, including interviewers and employers). This can be most effective when illustrated with a scene from the past where you learned something.
"The first time I was put in charge of a project, I was so determined to do a good job that I was a bit overbearing. After a couple of days, one of the older workers took me aside and read me the riot act about being wet behind the ears and not paying attention to his knowledge and experience. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I apologized on the spot, thanked him for his honesty, and then called the whole team together to apologize to them all. Since then, I've really tried to watch myself and now I make myself listen before any decisions are made."
"On my last job, I blew an assignment because I really didn't know what was wanted. My boss chewed me out and I felt this small. Ever since, I've made sure that I understand exactly what is expected so I can perform successfully." "I like to really take care of my customers. One time I went really overboard to take care of a guy who was always complaining about something. My boss called me into her office and pointed out, in no uncertain terms, that three other customers had been upset that I had ignored them because I was so tied up with this one guy. After that, I took the blinkers off and tried to look at the big picture -to balance the needs of different customers so everybody receives service."
Identify something you did in the past that got you into trouble, or embarrassed you, and find the lesson you learned. None of us emerge from adolescence with perfect competence. Demonstrating that you have exhibited personal weaknesses, and outlining how you have tried to correct them, makes you more human to an interviewer and moves beyond the canned phrases he has been hearing all day.