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To think there is no good answer to the question " what are your weaknesses?"

(40 Posts)
Unreasonablyfedup Mon 29-Aug-11 10:51:07

I mean, it's a lose/lose situation. If you say you haven't got any - then you look stupid - and a liar. If you admit to any then it is just something for the interviewer to bash you over the head with later.

Someone suggested the best answer would be "After Eight Mints" but I doubt that would be helpful.

Seriously though - what do you say??

Lougle Mon 29-Aug-11 10:55:11

You say something which has desirable elements for the employer, but in a self-deprecating way.

'I'm a real perfectionist...'

'I have really high expectations of myself and others....'

MonkeyJungleConga Mon 29-Aug-11 10:57:29

It's a shite question that does little more than highlight the interviewer's inexperience at interviewing candidates.

MogandMe Mon 29-Aug-11 10:57:41

Same as Lougle - I say I'm a perfectionist and will spend time on the little things.

Catslikehats Mon 29-Aug-11 11:00:22

I really don't enjoy interviews... grin

Seriously as Lougle says, could also try:

I have a tendency to focus on details....

I sometimes have to remind myself to delegate...

mycatsaysach Mon 29-Aug-11 11:00:54

trick question ? to weed out the people who think they don't have any

ginhag Mon 29-Aug-11 11:02:40

NEVER say 'I'm a perfectionist'. As an employer I can state with some certainty that everyone says that. And it is incredibly annoying. 'after eight mints' would be a much better answer as it shows originality and personality, qualities we are quite keen on smile

Catslikehats Mon 29-Aug-11 11:03:32

Monkeyjungle I disagree, especially in a job where you are not requiring a great deal of experience/qualifications and therefore can't spend thirty minutes talking about the finer points of ECHR legistlation on working time directives.

It is a very useful way of assessing whether the candidate has prepared themselves for the interview.

ginhag Mon 29-Aug-11 11:05:11

And I don't agree, monkey. It's an interesting question as only a very few people think about answering it creatively. And those that do are usually really worthwhile candidates.

Catslikehats Mon 29-Aug-11 11:08:14

ginhag well we agree on one thing if not the answer.

Any really great answers you've received?

ginhag Mon 29-Aug-11 11:10:50

'kryptonite' smile

Seriously though I would say 99.9% of people do the 'perfectionist' thing. Which always takes me by surprise as it's like they think an employer will be tricked by it.

flowery Mon 29-Aug-11 11:12:22

It's a poor question imvho. You should be assessing the candidates experience/skills as relevant to that particular job, not whether they've managed to think of a clever answer to a cliched question.

Anyway, don't say perfectionist. V annoying.

Pick an area of your current job where you were performing perfectly well but wanted to expand your knowledge/experience. Explain what that was, and identify that you took action to develop yourself in that area.

That way, you are not actually showing any weakness, you are showing self-awareness, proactivity, keenness to develop yourself, all good things.

noviceoftheday Mon 29-Aug-11 11:13:04

I would go with Lougle's responses and not the joke. However, if you came across me as an interviewer and responded that you were a perfectionist, I would ask you to tell me about a situation in which you displayed perfectionist tendencies, what was the impact on you, others and the project and what did you learn from it. Tends to floor the ones who haven't really thought it through or aren't telling the truth.

I disagree that the weaknesses question is always posed by an inexperienced interviewer. Being self aware is a key requirement in many jobs and that question plus the follow up is a way of testing it.

EdwardorEricCantDecide Mon 29-Aug-11 11:14:45

i do something similar to the perfectionist thing but try to tailor it to the job, but i always say the same thing for my strengths as my weaknesses and highlight the reasons.

eg. i can take things personally (in a customer service scenario) however this does make me more approachable/empathetic to customers.

bibbitybobbityhat Mon 29-Aug-11 11:15:17

It is an utterly rubbish question.

The first time I was asked it (before it became fashionable) I said "What a strange question. I can't think of any weaknesses I have that impact on my work." Which was the plain truth.

BrokenBananaTantrum Mon 29-Aug-11 11:16:09

I had this at my last interview. I said that I don't spend time thinking about my weaknesses bit instead focus on my positive attributes and qualities. They said it was a good answer and gave me the job.

BrokenBananaTantrum Mon 29-Aug-11 11:17:57

but not bit. Sorry.

tak1ngchances Mon 29-Aug-11 11:24:10

Everyone needs to be able to answer this question properly in an interview situation.
It shows a complete and utter lack of self-awareness if you cannot recognise your weaknesses/development areas. Bear in mind that the person interviewing you has things they need to work on too.
I would answer really honestly about your development areas.

You could say for example that you tend to be a conceptual thinker and that you need to really focus on developing your analytical skills. Of course I would not give this answer if I were applying to be an actual analyst - tailor the answer to the job. It should be a complementary skill to the main job function. Then you could say how you are already working on developing this area: I identified a mentor in my department who has real strength in business analysis. He/she and I meet on a regular basis and I bring specific examples of things I am working on and we discuss how to approach it. This is proving to be very successful for me; I am much more confident with analysing even complex business issues (give a short example here including how you approached it).
You could then say that you are so enthused by the whole coaching/mentoring thing that you are helping another person with their creative thinking blah blah.

What does this demonstrate:
- You recognise your strengths and weaknesses. You know yourself very well.
- You have taken positive and tangible steps to address your development area
- You are seeing real improvement
- You are interested in developing yourself and other people; the sign of a strong manager with leadership skills.

I would NEVER pull out the perfectionist thing, nor would I make a joke.

Unreasonablyfedup Mon 29-Aug-11 11:28:56

Kryptonite was another

I like Brokenbanana's response. Will try this next time.

Thinking about it - I've never asked it when I've been sat on the other side of the table.

JumpJockey Mon 29-Aug-11 11:30:38

Defi itely tailor it to the particular job - eg I'm a librarian and when they asked this, after sighing inwardly I said that If given the chance, I would sit there all day just browsing the books as I love reading slightly too much. This went down pretty well...

Meita Mon 29-Aug-11 11:36:37

If self-awareness is a quality necessary for the job (so it is not a job to stack shelves in a supermarket, where the question is probably just asked out of routine) I would try to show self-awareness in the answer. That means I would mention something I see as a real weakness. In the next breath I would explain how I put measures in place to deal with that weakness so that it does not impact my work. And then I'd follow up on how that some aspect of that weakness can in some situations turn out to be a strength.

So, for instance: My weakness is that I read slowly, it can take me more time than other people to read a report. This doesn't usually create problems as I'm fast at other stuff so can compensate, and if I do run out of time, I'll be happy to catch up during break time. I must say though that the slow reading also means very thorough reading, so while it will take me more time to read a report, I will usually also get more out of it than others would.

Or: My weakness is prioritising. If I'm not careful, I will get stuck in details or unimportant stuff, to the detriment of dealing with the big, urgent and important problem. As I am aware of this weakness, I am very careful to keep strict to-do lists with assigned priorities, this helps me to keep on track. Sometimes my attention to what initially appeared as a minor detail can actually help avoid them turning into big problems later... so it is not always a bad thing.

Meglet Mon 29-Aug-11 11:40:15

oh dear. I said I tend to double and triple check things as I like to get them right. However I'm sure I didn't say I was a perfectionist.

I did get the job though as it does require things to be spot on first time round, even if it takes a little longer. A balls up causes more hassle than triple checking things.

flowery Mon 29-Aug-11 11:41:49

If those who are asking it are wanting to know self-awareness levels of candidates, why not ask a question about that? Why the need to be cryptic and assume all candidates will know that's what you're asking?

If you want to know to what extent someone can identify their development needs within a role, ask for an example of when they've done exactly that. Don't assume that when asked 'what are your weaknesses' every candidate will know that's what you're asking. If you ask it that way, some will trot out the 'perfectionist' thing because they've been told that's a good answer, and some will say they have none, and some will say something entirely not job related. But many of them may be able to give an example of when they've identified the need for development in an area of their work and taken action to address it if they are actually asked that question.

You are trying to get the best person to do the actual job, not the person who is best at interviews, or has asked their mate for a good answer to the obvious questions, so as far as possible ask questions that will give every candidates most chance to convey the information you are actually looking for.

OriginalPoster Mon 29-Aug-11 11:54:09

If there is a skill that is not required for the job in question but would be useful and relevant if you mastered it you could use that. E.g. 'I do not speak Mandarin, but one of my goals this year is to learn the basics, as this would help me when I communicate with overseas clients.'

Panzee Mon 29-Aug-11 12:01:19

I tend to focus on a skill that I can easily get with some relevant training, e.g. "I do find teaching pe more challenging than science, but I spend a lot of time researching these subjects to make sure the pupils are not disadvantaged. I would also appreciate some training."

Or I do the coin flip method, e.g. "I really care about the work I produce, but sometimes this means I notice those who do not care about quality as much as I do" grin

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