We’re all guilty of this – when a recruiter asks us “what is your greatest weakness?” we say, “I’m a perfectionist,” or “I’m too honest,” or “I work too hard.” That’s called humblebragging – we turn what should be a weakness into a greatness, as if we are flawless. Ridiculous. Worse, we assume that not only will be recruiter be impressed but she’ll be too stupid to figure out that we’re lying. People who humblebrag never get hired. Ever.
When you have to admit to your flaws, you must own up to one maximum but do it in such a manner that you don’t make yourself look horrific either. For example if your weakness is working with other people, don’t say it in such a blatant manner. You’d reply “I work best on my own rather than having constant input from others.” It’s true but it’s not a humblebrag and it isn’t devastating. Never mind worrying about that team-player crap. That’s an over-used term and employers are tired of hearing it.
If you are weak in math then state something like, “I’m not too strong with numbers but to compensate for this, I check my work more than once and whenever I can, I get someone to look it over for me.” Of course, if you’re an accountant that’s not going to fly.
Let’s say public speaking isn’t your forte. Then tell the recruiter “I don’t like speaking to large crowds of people but I am confident in meetings,” (if that’s true). Another reasonable answer is “I hate failure.” We all do. The counterargument is “I try to learn from it and remain optimistic. Then I move forward and look at is as a learning experience.” That’s a good time to give an example. It shows triumph over tragedy.
Now recruiters know this tactic and they know any prepared applicant has studied the ideal answer to it. Still, they ask it to see how you can handle it. Keep in mind it’s not a good idea to bring up a weakness in a social situation. Think about it only in terms of work.
Here’s a hilarious example a man might use in an interview to describe his weakness. This one is appropriate for anyone who is auditioning for the television show The World’s Strongest Man. It’s a true story. When I worked at the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario I typed reports from the officers. One occurrence involved a fight between two men where one man started insulting the other. The second man walked over, punched him in the head and accidentally killed him. Seriously. In an interview fpr The World’s Strongest Man, he could state, “I don’t know my own strength.”
Some good answers to describe a weakness (think of the irony) include:
- sensitive to criticism
- too controlling
- lack of assertiveness (as long as you aren’t in sales)
- lack of humour
- easily offended by biased or racist remarks