When you go into an interview, you're likely to be nervous about a lot of things. What if you don't know the answer to one of the questions? What if your answer isn't good? Interviews can be intimidating and overwhelming even for those with years' of experience doing them. The good news is, interviewers are not looking for the perfect person – they are hoping for someone that meets the specific qualities they're looking for, while also demonstrating that the candidate is willing to learn the ropes.
To help interviewers determine whether or not you're a good fit, they will want to know what you are good at and what you can improve on. In fact, they may even ask in the interview what your weaknesses are or what flaws you have. And, depending on those flaws (and whether they are good flaws or bad flaws), you may have a better chance of getting the job. But, what's considered a good flaw to have? And, how can you make a flaw look like a positive attribute?
The "Strengths and Weaknesses" Question
Though no two interviews are the same, and each company presents their candidates with different questions, there are some interview questions that tend to be standard across the board. One of these questions is: "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Or, as it is sometimes phrased: "What is your greatest weakness?" These are always hard questions to answer. How do you discuss your strengths without coming off too confident or discuss your weaknesses without making yourself look bad?
Strengths are one thing, but discussing your weaknesses is actually much more difficult. First and foremost, it's really important that you have some weaknesses to discuss at the interview. By no means can you say, "I have no weaknesses," because this does not look good in the eyes of the interviewer.
Instead, it's better to come up with unique weaknesses that can actually be seen as strengths or assets to the company, and something that you can easily improve on. Though, you'll need to be careful about this because your interviewers have already seen and heard it all. You don't want your answer to sound too rehearsed or not original.
Other Ways to Ask About Flaws
Companies are coming up with new ways to ask candidates about flaws instead of asking the traditional questions, like "What are your strengths and weaknesses" or "What is your greatest weakness?" They do this, perhaps, to catch candidates somewhat off guard so they don't simply regurgitate stock answers. Some other ways that interviewers may ask about your flaws are:
- "If I called your previous manager, what would she say is something you could improve on?"
- "If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?"
- "What are you hoping to improve on if we were to hire you?"
- "How has this weakness negatively impacted your ability to perform?"
- "If a coworker complained about you, what would he say?"
Examples of Good Flaws to Have
You know that companies want someone who is honest and can talk about their flaws. But, how can you determine what's considered a good flaw? Think about a trait that you can improve on easily, yet something that gives you a little bit of personality. Something that you may need to consult a coworker for help with, but that won't make you seem like a lazy or incapable employee. If you're not sure what's a good flaw, look over some examples:
- Feeling nervous when talking in front of a group of people.
- Not being very artistic.
- Being too direct or too honest when giving feedback.
- Having trouble maintaining a work/life balance.
- Taking a bit longer than others to learn a new computer program.
Examples of Bad Flaws to Have
While you may think that the person interviewing you wants to hear any flaw as long as it's authentic, there are some flaws that are considered bad flaws. And, if they are true, you should avoid saying them because that can prevent you from getting the job you want. Some examples of bad flaws that you probably shouldn't mention are:
- You sometimes have trouble getting out of bed in the morning and are late for work at times.
- You have a short temper and sometimes yell at coworkers.
- You like to take vacations a lot.
- You tend to have a messy work space.
- You don't like to take the lead on projects, preferring to be told what to do.
Which Flaws Are OK to Discuss in an Interview?
If you have some interviewing experience, you're probably aware of the "weakness" question. You may have heard that it's important to choose a weakness that can easily be turned into a strength. While this is very much the case, you'll want to avoid giving an answer that's too common.
For example, "I care way too much about working, so I often work overtime" or "I am a perfectionist, so I can spend a lot of time finishing up a project" are not great answers to give. They are way too generic, so you'll need to be much more creative in choosing the flaw to discuss and how you describe it. When you're in the interview, be sure that, instead of just merely reciting your flaw, you support it by explaining how it can be improved and why it may be a good flaw to have. For example:
- "I feel nervous when I have to get up and talk in front of people, but I am willing to try."
- "I am not very artistic, so I may need to ask a coworker with a better eye to help when creating presentations for our clients."
- "Sometimes, I can be too direct when giving feedback, so I strive to provide constructive feedback to my team members without hurting anyone's feelings."
- "Occasionally, I have trouble with maintaining a good work/life balance, but I plan on utilizing apps like Google Calendar to better manage my time and to help me avoid problems."
- "It takes me a bit longer than others to learn a new computer program, but I like to try and figure out the problem on my own first. Then, if I am still unsuccessful, I'm happy to ask others for help."
Other Tips About Choosing Good Flaws
It can be hard to come up with good flaws that will actually work in your favor during an interview. So, if you're struggling, ask some friends, family members, a job coach or a former employer for advice. You can even act out a mock interview and ask the person helping you to ask you the question about flaws and weaknesses. Try out a few different answers and ask for feedback about which one sounds best.
If you have an interview that's coming up soon, there's a good chance that the interviewer will ask you this question. So practice and prepare as much as you can beforehand. And, as always, if you make a mistake during your interview, don't fret. Just do the best you can and always send a thank-you note afterwards. Also, be sure to follow up if you want to know the status of your application.