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Job Interviews: Answering Whats Your Greatest Weakness?

Many interview guides advise candidates to answer the common "What's your greatest weakness?" question with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, "I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do," or "I'm a perfectionist."

That would be a mistake.

Why? Because interviewers have heard these canned answers over and over again.

If you use one of them, it will likely backfire on you. Because the hiring manager will think:

  • You're not being honest about your true weaknesses and are just regurgitating someone's advice;

  • You feel that expecting others to work hard and striving for perfection (or whatever other disguised positive traits you use) are "weaknesses," which makes you look ignorant, naïve and/or lazy;

  • You don't know how to do an honest self-assessment;

  • Or you're delusional and think you don't have any real weaknesses!

    So state a true weakness! No one is perfect, so don't try to convince anyone (especially yourself) that you don't have any weaknesses.

    However, I cannot overemphasize the importance of not listing a key element of the position as a weakness! If you do that, you might as well send yourself the rejection letter.

    Pick a neutral weakness about something that's not critical to the job. Mention that. Then emphasize what you've done to overcome the weakness.

    This shows that you are honest, that you recognize areas in which you need to grow, and that you are actively seeking ways to improve yourself.

    Sample Answers:

    "I honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an outstanding job for you in THIS position. But in the past, I've had some trouble delegating duties to others. I felt I could do things better and faster myself. This sometimes backfired because I'd end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I've taken courses in time management and effective delegation, and I've managed to overcome this weakness." [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for a supervisory position]

    "I honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an outstanding job for you in THIS position. But I'm very weak in math and have to rely on a calculator even for basic computations. I always have one with me just in case a calculation is needed." [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for an accounting position or one that requires math skills!]

    This question really isn't so tricky, once you know what to expect and how to respond.

    Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular Job Interview Success System and free information-packed ezine, "Career-Life Times." Find those and other powerful career-building resources and tips at her website:

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