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IT worker confused by job description hiding behind desk

Unlock the mystery of the most dreaded interview question

April 17, 2014
By Melissa McFall

The most mind-boggling interview question there is: “What are your biggest weaknesses?” Everybody knows to expect this question; however, it stumps people when they attempt to answer it. Is it possible that giving an honest response to this question is a solution? I would argue yes!

Now this does not mean that answering this question is a time to air your dirty laundry. It also does not mean that you should point out a weakness that is directly related to the job you are pursuing. What it does mean is that you have an opportunity to truthfully point out some areas you are currently trying to improve. The reason for this is twofold:

One, you want to make sure that the job is a right fit for you. If your weaknesses would make it difficult for you to be successful at that organization, the position is not the one for you. Remember, you are interviewing the company just like they are interviewing you. If your answer to the infamous weaknesses question rules you out as a candidate for the job, count it as a blessing in disguise. You don’t want to spend your days in a job where you have trouble performing.

Two, you will spend less time focusing your interview preparation on this question, and as a result, have more time to focus on some other important areas. When you explain your weaknesses with confidence and move on to the rest of the discussion, you will make a great impression and have additional time to discuss other areas that help you shine as a candidate.

I’ve worked with so many job hunters who spend an astonishing amount of time trying to determine the right answer to this question. I even coached one person who took over 30 minutes to select a way to describe her weaknesses. Even when I explained my philosophy about being honest and gave examples of my weaknesses, she was too caught up in uncovering what the employer wanted to hear to make a decision. She couldn’t accept the idea that the employer actually wanted to find out more about her. Wasting your time like this is detrimental if you have a busy life, a current job or anything more fun to do! In addition, speculating about what your interviewer wants to hear will provide no value for a personal question such as this.

Now, one final bit of advice: you need to be ready to explain how you are working to improve yourself. Just blurting out your weaknesses and not explaining what you are doing to fix them is not going to reflect well on you as a mature adult. Since you need to create an image of professionalism, drive, motivation and willingness to learn, it’s imperative that you provide this explanation. Without it, you just look like a person with problems.

Be committed to better self-awareness and honesty in sharing your areas of development. In addition, make sure you are taking steps to improve your flaws. Your work will pay off during your next job interview.

Melissa McFall has spent over nine years in the IT staffing and services industry, including six years as an IT recruiter. She is an expert in recruiter/client relations and service delivery.

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