Absolutely Don’t Say This in Your Next Interview...

Morgan McKinley November 15, 2013 3 mins read

In the interview process you’ll probably be asked by the interviewer to talk about your shortcomings. Here's the most overused answered you should avoid:

As candidates go through more and more interviews, their responses to this prompt become more and more similar. Here are four classic answers:

1. “I’m a perfectionist.”

This is the most oft-repeated shortcoming. The candidate says that their perfectionism incurs the ire of colleagues and subordinates, gives others too much pressure, and is something they’re working on improving. This type of cookie-cutter response isn’t only hard to identify with; it also won’t do anything to win the interviewer to your side. As everyone knows, this “shortcoming” is just strength in disguise. Even if it’s true, a good interviewee won’t give this response—they know it’s way too common. You should avoid it, too.

2. “I’m too impatient.”

This one sounds like a real shortcoming, but in most cases the candidate will spin it to become another strength in disguise, leaving the interviewer’s head reeling: “I’m so impatient that when the boss gives me a task and says I have three days to do it, I always want to get it done in one day—it’s something I should work on.” This response is obviously just self-praise, not the kind of real shortcoming the interviewer is interested in hearing about.

3. “I still have a lot to learn.”

No matter how much they love to read and study, some interviewees insist on saying they still have a lot to learn. When asked for specifics, many will refer to the job they’re interviewing for: “there’s always more I can learn!” This type of empty response is given purely for the sake of answering the question, and will leave the interviewer with a negative impression.

4. “I don’t pay enough attention to my home life.”

In this response, the candidate talks about how they’re a workaholic, and how all those overtime hours affect their family life and personal health. They say it’s something they’ve been trying to improve, but just can’t seem to shake their workaholic ways. People who parrot this shortcoming are usually people with weak analytic abilities and no thoughts of their own. Or they have certain analytic abilities but ruin them with clumsy execution. As someone who’s run a lot of interviews, I’ve heard the above responses a million times each. The results of trying to be crafty by disguising strengths as weaknesses are evident for all to see.

It is challenging to talk about your shortcomings in front of an interviewer, but giving these stock answers shows you haven’t actually come up with them for yourself—it makes you look inauthentic. In any well-designed interview, a candidate spouting inauthentic responses will earn a low score.

So, if an interviewer asks you to talk about your weaknesses or shortcomings start with the truth—don’t try to cover anything up. Objectively speaking, everyone has shortcomings. When talking about them, a self-confident person’s confidence will shine through. An unconfident candidate, however, can’t talk about even their strengths without putting their weaknesses on full display. How should you respond to the prompt, then? Give them the truth. What’s important is how you deal with your shortcomings, and how you act on a day-to-day basis. What the interviewer wants to hear is how you can overcome your real shortcomings, not how well you can cover them up.

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