Most of us have learned to believe that revealing weaknesses in an interview is a cardinal sin, but I think this may be an unhelpful — or even actively harmful — way to view the situation.
Now, let’s be clear from the outset: I am not urging candidates to walk into the interview room and treat their interviewer like a therapist, revealing all of their personal and operational weaknesses in a five-minute self-expose. However, I do think an unnecessary level of paranoia surrounds weaknesses, producing a desire to hide them at all costs — which may actually harm your employment chances.
Why? Because if you do not present your weaknesses, you may present a too-good-to-be-true image that will cause interviewers to twitch suspiciously at your unrealistic depiction of yourself. Experienced interviewers will suspect that you are leaving out details, and that will harm your credibility.
I believe candidates should show weakness at interviews — but I also believe there is definitely a right way to do that. For example, interviewers will make it easy for you to show your weaknesses by asking you specific types of questions during the interviews. The first will be a more direct question like, “What are your main strengths and weaknesses?” Candidates often fail this question because they think that the interviewer wants to just know about their strengths. What the interviewer actually wants to know is whether or not you are self-aware enough and experienced enough to analyze and understand both your strengths and your inevitable weaknesses.
More competent performers will have more strengths then weaknesses, but everyone has weaknesses of some kind. If you don’t own them, the picture you paint of yourself will not seem authentic or believable.
Be careful of how you relay your weaknesses, of course: you don’t want to present yourself as incompetent. Rather, you should acknowledge your weaknesses and then explain the measures you have taken to address them. For example, you may be a little too big-picture oriented, lacking any eye for smaller details — but you might also make a habit of delegating detail-oriented tasks to someone more equipped than you as a way to mitigate the effects of your weakness on the company. Or you could have a problem with multitasking, which you address by taking intensive training courses in time management and prioritization.
Interviewers may also ask behavior questions to discover a candidate’s weaknesses, such as, “Give an example of when you failed at something,” or “Describe any obstacles you have had to overcome to achieve something and the lessons you learned as a result.” These are all opportunities for you to clearly demonstrate your skills in an authentic way by outlining how you overcame any personal weaknesses to achieve an end result. And if you failed, you can show explain the lessons you learned that will help you succeed in the future.
The point is that admitting weaknesses — and showcasing how you can be successful in spite of your weaknesses — can actually be a sign of determination and resilience. So, yes, showing weaknesses in the right way can in itself be a strength, one that increases your chances of getting a job.
For more information and tips about describing your weaknesses during a job interview, check out our YouTube video below: “How to Answer What are Your Weaknesses.”