It’s the one question which leaves candidates flummoxed. How to comment on your flaws without undermining your interviewer’s impression of you? With this in mind, TMI had a brainstorm in the office about how we would answer that thorny question guaranteed to be on your interviewer’s lips.
Firstly, what NOT to say…
If your immediate reaction was to respond with one of the following; “I’m a perfectionist”, “I work too hard” or “I pay too much attention to detail”, you’re guilty of falling into a classic trap. While you probably thought you were being clever researching ‘ideal interview answers’ on the internet the night before, just remember that so did the other candidates that you’re battling against. It’s preferable to think of a more personal response which demonstrates to the interviewer that you have considered his/her question and that you have the ability to be self-reflective.
What’s more, if interviewing for a secretarial/assistant position, steer clear of these so-called ‘fail-safe’ answers because they might actually backfire on you. Your interviewer is looking for somebody efficient who can work to tight deadlines, so saying any of the above might imply that you are a slow worker.
Instead, identify an area of personal development…
A good way to tackle the question is to mention a current goal that you are working towards. For example: you weren’t proficient at using a certain type of software at work, which cost you time, and so you took an online course. While this might highlight that you are not the most technologically-savvy, it does illustrate that you consider your personal development to be a priority, which is always a desirable quality in a candidate. Approach with caution, however! Obviously, if you are applying for a job as Communities Manager, mentioning any weakness regarding technology is not going to stand you in the best stead. It is hence essential that the weakness you describe is not a fundamental skill in your line of work.
Turn a negative into a positive
If you’ve scoured careers websites, you’ll have noticed that the following advice from HR experts is unanimous: turn a negative into a positive. The danger with this tactic is that your response can come across as contrived. A way to apply this approach more effectively is to complement it with a concrete example of when your weakness turned out to be an asset. A flaw could be that you spend a long time on a task but this means that your work is accurate. To make this answer count for more, be sure to mention the time that you were analysing the company accounts and you spotted a crucial error, saving the company ‘x’ amount of money.
Throw a curve-ball…
One of the TMI consultants once answered with “I have a really bad sense of direction”. While this might not be directly relevant to the workplace, it could steer the interview onto another topic of conversation. However, probably one best to avoid if you turned up late to the interview!
Finally, if you’re a recent graduate…
If you’ve recently finished university and have not worked before, you could mention that your lack of experience in this particular sector could be interpreted as a weakness. You’re not actually revealing anything new because your interviewer has presumably already read your CV. Make sure, nonetheless, that you combine this with how motivated you are to prove that this will not hold you back and that you have transferable skills.
All in all, our most crucial advice is not to fall into the trap of panicking and revealing a weakness that could work against you. If you reflect on how you would answer the question in advance and have some examples up your sleeve, you will be in a better position to impress.
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