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How to Answer Questions about Your Weaknesses?

A question about our main weaknesses boggles the mind in our everyday life and seems even more baffling when posed during job interviews. When you know that your career is at stake, talking about your weak points seems counter-intuitive and self-destructive. After all, you came to the interview to triumph and get that lucrative job rather than undermine your chances for success. Yet to pretend that your character is made entirely of strengths and virtues is equally harmful to your self-image. By asserting that you are devoid of weakness, you risk appearing smug, self-righteous, and unintelligent. To reveal few of your shortcomings you must, then, if you want to come across as winsomely human.

But the conclusion that you should admit to being weak only brings up another question: how do you choose what weakness to confess to your recruiters? Surely, not everything goes on the job interview, and not every flaw in your character will charm your potential employers. If you admit that you have a sweet tooth and often go on a chocolate eating binge, your recruiters might look at this weakness benignly and judge it as all-too-human and forgivable, if irrelevant to your professional expertise. But if you confess that you fly off the handle every time anybody finds a fault with your work, employers might conclude that you will be troublesome to work with and might turn your candidacy down. It is crucial, therefore, to know what weaknesses to select as an example in response to recruiters’ question about them. Instead of incriminating you, your examples should clearly show to your potential employers that you are aware of your faults and willing to address them.

To emerge during your interview as a person who is humanly imperfect but who is striving to eliminate his or her shortcomings, you should choose weaknesses according to these three principles:

  • Your weakness should not be fundamental and thus harmful to the job for which you are applying. If you are competing for a position where you routinely need to communicate with different people and you confess that you are an introvert preferring reading a book in solitude over socializing with friends, then you will probably sabotage your employment. Or if during your interview for a secretary role, you mention that you are absent-minded and often lose your keys and credit cards, chances are that you will not be offered the position where the main requirement is to be organized and focused.
  • With this said, your weakness should not be irrelevant to your position either. If in your response to your interviewers’ question about your shortcomings, you complain that you do not find the will to go to the gym, even though you have paid for ten months up-front, your reply will not help them decide whether you can be hired. Worse, your answer will sound as if you are deliberately avoiding talking about your professional weak points. But if you say that as a marketing writer you always tend to demand high-quality writing from yourself, redrafting your articles numerous times, your perfectionism may be regarded as understandable by the company that wants to attract educated, knowledgeable investors to its products.
  • Equally important is to make your employers believe that your weakness is not irreparable but can be eliminated with time and determination. Convince them that you are working on your shortcomings and strive to become a better version of yourself. Employers usually prefer hiring people who are not only aware of their drawbacks but also aspire to improve themselves so that they can grow professionally with the company.

Why Do Employers Want to Learn about Your Weak Points?

Knowing that the main goal of recruiters is to learn about applicants’ strengths, it seems strange that they ever ask about their weaknesses. One would think that if companies seek to employ the best candidates from the applicant pool, it would be more logical to enquire about their achievements and professional milestones than about their failures and deficiencies. And yet, employers do not ask about applicants’ shortcomings out of idle curiosity. They derive the following benefits from candidates’ answers to this question:

  • Employers gain a more rounded picture of candidates’ personalities;
  • They more correctly gauge the level of their self-awareness and their ability to reflect on their merits and demerits;
  • They ascertain that candidates to do not possess serious flaws of character that might in future prevent them from fulfilling their tasks efficiently;
  • Employers ascertain that candidates are willing to turn their weaknesses into strengths;
  • They also test whether candidates can maintain composure and keep a cool head under pressure and in difficult situations.

How to Answer Questions about Yourself?

Another interview question that often puzzles job candidates is about themselves. Unlike the question about our weaknesses, this question seems deceptively easy to answer. We are used to weave narratives about our lives and often indulge in revealing biographical details to our colleagues, friends, and family members. Nothing seems more natural for us, then, than launching out into self-characterization during the interview.

But on closer inspection, this question proves to be more complicated than it seems on the surface. The major problem applicants face in answering the question about themselves is where to start and what information to include into their narratives. Surely, you would not start ab ovo; that is, from the earliest chronological point of your life. Nor would you include every single event highlighted in your biography into your narrative about yourself during your interview. There is also a problem of the tone that you assume when talking about your achievements. Should you talk modestly, or can you allow yourself a bit of self-aggrandizement, since your aim is to impress your recruiters and get hired? Below are several suggestions that will help you answer the question about yourself effectively and to the point.

Do Not Boast

When it comes to your conduct during your upcoming interview, it is better to behave modestly. This does not mean that you need to sound self-deprecating and belittle your accomplishments. But you will find more favor in employers’ eyes, if you do not blow your own trumpet, bragging proudly about what you have achieved. Employers are wary of hiring people who, being cocky and overbearing, might look down on their co-workers. Even though recruiters always search for mavericks, they also want to ensure that the hired people can give credit to other employees with whom they work together rather than put a spotlight exclusively on themselves. Therefore, during your interview, elaborate on your excellences but do this with a touch of humility.

Do Not Go Too Far Back in History

Do not bring up stories that happened in the dim and distant past. Your conversation with your recruiters will always be more dynamic, if you highlight more recent workplaces and projects, especially if your working history is long and eventful. Nor is there a need to relate your achievements in a chronological order. Because your employers will have your résumé in front of them, you may concentrate on those milestones in your life of which you are prouder.

Be Relevant

Our lives contain many events that, though exciting and crucial, have no relevance to our work experience and our professional achievements based on which we are evaluated as potential candidates for an applied position. Selecting information from your résumé that is germane to employers’ search is essential, if you want to appear as the right fit for their company. You may surely talk about your general background and reveal to your recruiters what hobbies you are pursuing in your free time, but do not dwell on this information for long. Even if you want to influence your recruiters’ hiring decision with your personal traits, your main goal still should be impressing them with your professionalism. Hence, make your answers relevant to your skills and achievements and to the requirements of the role for which you are being interviewed.


Why Do Employers Ask Applicants about Themselves?

In the first place, employers invite you to tell about yourself because they want to get to know you better and evaluate you as a potential colleague. Other reasons for asking you to share some biographical information with them are the following:

  • Employers want to see how well you can handle an open-ended question, not dependent on a structured answer;
  • To examine how well you can differentiate between important and secondary information;
  • To evaluate whether you can present yourself as a winning candidate for the applied position.

Apart from giving you an opportunity to highlight your achievements and your strong points, the questions about yourself also allows you to construct your self-image as touchingly human. By representing yourself as well-rounded person with exciting hobbies and fulfilling private life, you may more readily inspire recruiters to put you at the top of their list of promising job candidates.    

JobTestPrep does everything in its power to prepare applicants for their telephone and in-person interviews. We have comprehensive resources able to arm them with winning answers to all type of questions posed by recruiters. Practice with our sophisticated PrepPack™ and come out on top in the competition for your desired position. 

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