The “weakness” interview question is so weak (video embedded)

by Rich DeMatteo on July 27, 2010 · 21 comments

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I’ve never asked someone to explain to me their weaknesses on an interview.  Sorry, I just won’t do it.  I was trained to stay away from it, and I’ve been continuously reminded to avoid that useless question when conducting interviews.

Why?

Well, when most people are asked, they try to think of something negative that they can turn into a positive.  A common response is, “Well, I’m too detailed”, or “I care too much about my work”.  When answers like this come up, recruiters know it’s bullshit, but they write it down, and that question becomes completely irrelevant to the interview.  It’s a waste of space…that’s what it is.  It’s like that one chair in your high school auditorium that’s broken.  What’s it doing there?

How do you answer it?

I mean, you can simply go the cowardly path, and answer with one of the bum answers above.  It won’t hurt, but it really doesn’t help.  Or you could be creative and do the following.  Memorize the job description completely and pick something that may be a weakness of yours that’s not anywhere near the description or duties of the job.  Let’s say you know that this job won’t lead anytime soon to a manager, and you really don’t want to be a manager one day (many people have no interest in managing people).  Your answer could be, “Well, I’m not great at delegating.”.  Just keep it simple, short, and get the hell off of that broken auditorium chair.

Watch this video…it’s exactly how I feel…

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20 comments
sima
sima

Here's my canned answer to the "Weakness" question. I work on the business side of the software industry. Prepared Answer: I pay attend to details, but I'm not a perfectionist. I think it's better to complete a software project with good enough quality than to risk going way over budget and delivering way too late. It's about balance.

Derrick Ruebusch
Derrick Ruebusch

It is interesting reading the post and responses. I think we hit on this in #jobhuntchat a couple weeks ago. Someone informed me that is is a bad question to ask during that session. I slightly disagreed at the time. I think it has turned into a bad question due to the bad scripted answers over the years. If the purpose of the question is to see if the prospect will "slip up" than it is pointless. But If I were an interviewer (which I'm not) I would be looking to see that the prospect has some introspective ability to know their weaknesses and the ability to explain how they are overcoming those weaknesses. Or better yet take a weakness that I, the interviewer, knows they have (in my case of looking for HR positions, probably lack of experience) and give an answer that puts that any doubt the interviewer has in my abilities to rest. I don't think alot of interviewees think that indepth about answering the weakness question so the boring, scripted answers makes the question worthless.

Melissa Cooley
Melissa Cooley

Never liked this question as a job seeker. So great to hear that interviewers are moving away from it. Best answer I've ever heard someone suggest for this one: "Dark chocolate." :)

Karen
Karen

Not my favorite question at all...does it ever get answered honestly? Hard to say. Would answering it get you any brownie points? Probably not...except maybe an A for effort. (I'd say no if your weakness is pilfering, intoxication, or philandering. lol) But seriously...if you knew what the job seeker's weakness was...would it stop you from hiring them? My answer? I don't ask a lot of stupid questions (so they shouldn't either). Funny video! Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments and violent reactions)

Tammy
Tammy

Feelings of the same. This question, as well as several others, should be locked up and never used... Loved the video. More people should come into the interview with a little sense of humor. Would much rather see some sense of the candidate's personality rather than a memorized rhetoric.

Lindsey
Lindsey

Clearly the French haven't gotten the memo about this being a futile question, perhaps you should intervene? French version? :)

Paul Smith
Paul Smith

The parenthetical part of this question is "can you tell me what I want to hear?" You're right about this question. It's more likely to garner a response that is canned, in essence informing the recruiter of nothing. Your advice for the interviewee is good. But it's too bad that an interviewee can't challenge the recruiter by asking them to clarify, "define weakness for me." If they could, a real conversation could ensue and maybe both parties could learn something about each other. And isn't that what interviews are supposed to be about? Not canned questions to see who provides the best canned answers. Love the video. Made me laugh out loud.

On the Sidelines
On the Sidelines

Agreed. A coach told me this one: It bothers me when other people are not organized. Since no one wants to admit they are not organized, you should get a pass.

Marian Schembari
Marian Schembari

Hate this question. I once answered and said, "I'm young." Basically greatest answer ever and I totally got the job ;-)

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hi Sima, So, is your weakness that you feel you don't pay close enough attention to details? Thanks.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

I agree with you Derrick on bad scripted answers. Thanks for adding your thoughts on this!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Melissa - wow, that is absolutely incredible. I love that answer!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hello Karen aka The Resume Chick - Thanks for the comment and popping in your thoughts. I like your take. Less stupid questions helps everyone!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Tammy - Thanks for the comment. The video was definitely hilarious, and I agree, sense of humor is a plus!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Lindsey - If I understand the language maybe I'd come by and do some training....be my ambassador over there!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Paul - Love your thoughts on how the interviewee can dig deeper and ask for qualification. I think that they can, and should do that. That is possibly the best answer, but doing so in a way that doesn't insult the interview is needed of course. Wasn't that video great?

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

You are one of the few people I'll allow with just 5 letters for a comment...It works for you

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Marian - that's probably one of the best answers I've seen for this question. Bravo.