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What Are Your Weaknesses?

Some variation of this question comes up in every job interview. The question to the job hunter is how to answer this question when trying to sell themselves to a potential employer.

First here’s what not to do. Do not try to offer up a strength taken to the extreme as a weakness – “I work too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I can never say no to the boss.” Interviewers, even the inexperienced ones, will recognize this for what it is – evasive b.s.

Consider that a good interviewer is not an enemy. A good interviewer is a partner trying to work with the job seeker and the employer to find the right fit for both. The wrong fit means the employer ends up with an undone job, and an employee ends up struggling and miserable at work. Nobody wants that.

As with many things, in this case honesty is the best policy. Don’t be too honest, don’t offer up weaknesses that would make someone think you can’t do the job – “I have a sleeping disorder that makes me spontaneously fall asleep during the day.” Make sure to follow up the weakness on the positive side by describing how you’ve addressed it and conquered it – “I tend to be disorganized, so I make sure to use my PDA and calendar to keep me on schedule and all my contacts and work in order.”

The right answer to this question shows honesty, the ability to deal with problems, and a general comfort with dealing with tough questions in an interview and work situation.

Some suggested answers:

“I’m not very organized, so I make lists which I check every morning to make sure I stay on track.”

Don’t Listen:
“I have a hard time listening to people before I interrupt them, so now I count to three to make sure people are finished speaking before making my comments.”

“I tend to forget things, so I take notes and make lists of important tasks and details.”

Sometimes an interviewer will follow up with something like “That’s a great example of a personal issue you’ve solved, but what about one you’re still struggling with?”

The answer to this is the same as to the original question. Take some time to think, don’t mention too severe a weakness, and make sure to mention how you’re dealing with the issue.

I’m not great with computers:
“I take classes at night and on weekends and am making progress learning the more complex tasks involved with computers such as backing up data and upgrading software, even replacing the hard drive.”

Of course, this would be a severe weakness if computer work is core to the job.

The strangest answer we’ve heard? “I talk to animals, so when the birds chirp outside it ruins my concentration.”

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