One of the most common—and most dreaded—interview questions out there is, “What’s your biggest weakness?”
And you’ve probably heard that a great answer is something along the lines of, “Well, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.” It addresses the question directly, but still presents you in a positive light—who wouldn’t want an employee with an overwhelming commitment to quality, especially in fields where details make the difference?
But is this really an appropriate answer? Do recruiters still buy it—even if it’s sort of true?
Here’s the thing: Chances are, telling a hiring manager that perfectionism is your greatest weakness won’t surprise him or her—and it might come off as sounding like an overly rehearsed cliché. It also doesn’t offer much of a true insight into your work style or personality (especially if half the other candidates are giving the same response).
So, here’s how to answer instead. If you’re not truly held back by perfectionist tendencies, look for something else to talk about—the fact that you’re working on speaking up more in meetings, for example, or that delegating doesn’t come naturally to you.
And if you are? There are ways to explain that perfectionism is your greatest weakness that really demonstrate authenticity. You can deliver a more effective and unique answer by explaining that you tend to be extra critical of your own work, that you have a propensity to overthink projects before diving in, or that you always like to deliver an exceptional product, which means you’re often working up against deadlines. (And then following up with all the ways you’re actively seeking to improve this trait, of course.)
These answers are much more individualized, and they provide a launchpad for a meaningful conversation with your interviewer—which is really what you’re going for. Remember that, when asking this question, interviewers aren’t looking for super-human candidates whose only weakness is that they’re “a little too perfect.” They’re looking for people who know themselves—both their strong suits and points of weakness—and who can improve on those things. And more than anything, they’re looking for a real person.
In short, if you can answer authentically, connect with your interviewer, and provide a personal insight—it’ll go much, much further than some canned response.
Jessica Taylor is the annoying friend who responds "seen it" to every link you send her. After graduating with a BA in public relations from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Jessica went on to earn her MBA and is a corporate communications professional in Phoenix, Ariz. She’s reportedly allergic to cold weather and anything sci-fi related, and known to travel great distances to see the Red Sox play. Read more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Twitter @JesDoit.More from this Author