I’m not good at feigning interest at something that clearly bores me; I’m not the best when it comes to working out the percentage discount on a sales item and I’m quite poor at saying ‘no’; yet somehow to confess all in an interview seems like a terrible strategy for landing a job, so how should you handle the dreaded question that invites you to trip up and bare your worst traits to a panel of interviewers?
At some point in an interview, after the bit that invites you to tell your future boss how fabulous you are, the amazing things you have achieved in previous roles whilst single-handedly bringing up ten children and doing triathlons in your spare time; you are invited to give your chances of landing the job a bit of a wakeup call as you have to ‘fess up to which of your skills are a little lacking.
Of course, the temptation here is to prepare an answer to show that you are ever so slightly flawed yet still 99.9% bang on amazing. But any human being, whatever their title is, is going to see right through that and your inability to ‘show and tell’ your weaknesses may backfire as they begin to question your credibility at being open and honest.
So how can you be honest and not put off the interviewer at the same time? Here’s some tips:
- Avoid red flags: If you are hoping to land a job as an HR Manager and you admit that you can sometimes fall out with others or that you are shy and find it hard to build good relationships then you’re probably applying for the wrong job and the interviewer will automatically cross you off the list. It’s best to avoid admitting that you can’t fulfil some of the fundamental skills or personality traits required of the job.
- Refusing to answer the question: If you try to dodge the question by pretending that you can’t think of a single flaw then the interviewer will think that you have difficulty being honest with yourself and may consider that as a major problem.
- Don’t be tempted to turn a negative into a positive: It’s the oldest trick in the book to come out with a line such as, “I work too hard sometimes,” “I find it hard to switch off because I am so passionate”, while you’ll be forgiven for trying to turn the question on its head, the interviewer may put you down as having done too much research on how to avoid the question and may believe you are actually trying to hide something.
- Show a willingness to improve: When admitting to a flaw or something that you wish you were better at then the best thing to do is to show a willingness and a plan on how to improve it. No one is going to expect you to be 100% proficient in all the skills listed on the job description so if you are unsure of one or two of them then pick those out but try to caveat that by saying that you are a quick learner and believe you can improve on those skills with some support and on the job training.
- Soften the blow with the right language: Don’t make your flaws sound worse by propelling them into the terrible category with language such as ‘I can’t’ or ‘I hate’ or worse still, ‘I am useless at’. It’s better to dress up your weakness with some more favourable terminology such as, ‘I could do with learning more about x’, or ‘I’d really like to get better at x’. This shows you aren’t completely hopeless in the skill that you would like to improve at and, better still that you are willing to face your demon and improve upon it.
- Avoid parading your worse habits: It’s never going to impress if you say that you are persistently late or that you are always forgetting things or that you have a habit of flaring up when people upset you. There really is no need to share your annoying habit of picking your nose or snoring with the world either. They aren’t really interested in your personal misgivings that you can leave at home, remember they are looking for weaknesses in any skills that you need at work so stick to that.
- Demonstrate how you have tried to overcome your failing: If you are confessing to a horrific fear of public speaking which renders your heart palpitating and your palms sweating, then it’s ok to say so but whilst you’re at it try to explain how you have overcome it; perhaps you have tried to confront your fear by joining Toastmasters or volunteering to present in a meeting to build up your confidence in this area.
- Prepare an answer: The worst thing to do when faced with a question like this is to be unprepared for it. It’s a standard interview question so think about your answer before you are in the interview room.
We all have flaws, we are humans after all so don’t be scared to share them; your future employer will be more impressed at your sincerity and honesty then if you try to make out you are superhuman. Taking a long, hard look at yourself and being honest about your weaknesses is the best place to start in preparing an answer that will help smooth the way to a job offer. Good luck!