The idea that you should answer “what’s your biggest weakness>” in a job interview with something that’s really just a positive trait (“I’m a workaholic!” or “I’m a perfectionist!”) is something you’ll hear often from career coaches. The truth is, just stop. Every interviewer everywhere has heard it before, and would rather you were honest.
Photo by Samuel Mann
If you catch yourself about to spin a positive into something that could appear negative just to get through the question without looking like you actually have any weaknesses, you’ve probably revealed your real issue then and there — a lack of clarity, honesty and capacity for introspection. Ultimately, your answer to the question should be well-considered and relevant to the job and the interview, and it should be an actual point you’d like to work on and improve — not something designed to just make you look good.
Alison Green, writing at US News Money, also points out the obvious — that every interviewer everywhere ever has heard the pat answers before, and those cliches just won’t work anymore:
If you’ve picked up any guide to job searching in the past decade, you’ve probably seen the advice to claim that your biggest weakness is that you work too hard or you’re a perfectionist. But so have most interviewers, and at this point, those answers sound clichéd and disingenuous. What’s more, they make you sound like you either don’t have much self-awareness or you’re unwilling to have an honest discussion about your fit for the role you’re applying for.
Good interviewers don’t want to talk about weaknesses so they can play “gotcha”, but because they want to make sure they won’t put in a job where you’ll struggle.
In reality, the “your greatest weakness” question is a place for you to show where you can — and would like to — grow once you land the position. Obviously you shouldn’t go to an interview and say your greatest weakness is something that’s critical to the job you’re applying for, but showing you have a little ambition and plenty of room to grow and learn new things is more valuable than trying to save face.
Ignore This Common — and Awful — Career Advice [US News Money]