Remember that important childhood rule: honesty is the best policy? The one we accidentally forget about as we get older. Well, as it turns out, employers want to see honesty even when they ask you tricky interview questions.
So avoid doing the “humblebrag.”
If you are not familiar with the humblebrag, the Social Science Research Network describes it as “bragging masked by a complaint…we show that although people often choose to humblebrag when motivated to make a good impression, it is an ineffective self-promotional strategy.”
This definition from the Social Science Research Network probably has you running through every answer you have given in response to past interview questions. If you have been guilty of the humblebrag before, don”t worry too much because we are going to share with you the correct way to answer the question that stumps most people: “What are your weaknesses?”
Why Do Interviewers Ask about Your Weaknesses?
It is not so they can figure out why they shouldn’t hire you.
Founder and CEO of Hirewire, Chau Nguyen, has screened more than 250,000 resumes, interviewed 50,000 candidates and hired 4,000 people.
He recently told BBC that the humblebrag “is like saying ‘I wish for world peace’ during a beauty pageant interview. You think you’re clever by turning the question into an opportunity to brag when in reality, it just makes you look bad … it’s important to understand why the interviewer is asking this question. This is [a] chance for you to show that you are humble, aware of your shortfalls, and are actively working to improve on them.”1
If you had no idea that interviewers want to know your actual weaknesses, you are probably not alone.
Interviewers aren’t necessarily looking to find out if you are a perfect person — they probably would not believe you, even if you told them that. In reality, they are trying to give you an opportunity to be open and honest with them. Instead, learn how to humbly explain your weaknesses in a way that makes you an even better candidate for the job.
Admit Your Inadequacies
That’s right. Share with your potential employer in what, exactly, you do not feel the most confident.
“By admitting your inadequacies, you show that you’re self-aware enough to know your areas for improvement — and secure enough to be open about them. That you’re interested in being hired for what you actually bring to the table, not what you pretend to bring,” stated The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania professor Adam Grant in his article for medium.com.
Candidates who acknowledge a legitimate weakness when interview questions turn toward exploring personal weakness are given 30 percent more interest for hire than those who hid their weakness within a humblebrag.2
This is where the “honesty is the best policy” rule comes into play. Potential employers may find it more appealing when an interviewee can confidently explain the areas in which they hope to improve.
Instead of telling your interviewer, “I am a perfectionist at times, which can be hard to deal with,” try saying, “Sometimes I am so confident that I’m right, that I don’t give others a chance to fully express their thoughts and opinions.” Then, take time to explain how you are working to improve this tendency. It shows employers that you have good self-awareness and understand what you need to do to become a better employee.
Master Your Ability to Answer Interview Questions
While “winging it” may be okay for some things, it is probably not a great tactic for a job interview.
Save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety by properly preparing for an interview. That means going over potential interview questions. At Grantham, our career services office provides assistance to help you:
• Identify your key strengths as a potential employee
• Differentiate yourself in the job market through professional branding
• Create attention-getting, targeted resumes, cover letters and portfolios
• Benefit from successful interviews through solid preparation and follow up
You know you are likely to be asked, “What are your weaknesses?” So know exactly how to answer the question in a way that showcases your ability to stay composed and humble even when you may not feel at your most confident.