How candid should you be about your weaknesses during a job interview?

People seeking advice about the best way to approach a job interview often ask me this question, as I have conducted thousands of interviews over my career as a Business Psychologist and Human Resource Consultant.  In my experience, a clear trend emerges: people who are the most experienced, qualified, successful, etc. are more candid about themselves than people who are less experienced and qualified.

For example, it’s common for managers and executives with decades of experience and strong track-records of success to be very open (or even bluntly straightforward) when responding to questions about their weaknesses.  Accomplished leaders have readily told me things like, “I can be impatient and push people too hard”, or “I tend not to listen to others’ input when I think I’m right”, or “I don’t take the time to explain things to people and ensure they agree with my decisions before I move forward”.

However, in contrast, I’ve found that less experienced or less qualified job candidates tend to be much more evasive or superficial when I ask them about their weaknesses.  Responses such as, “I work too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist” are much more common.  Some people even go as far to say as they simply aren’t aware of any weaknesses they have.  Most seasoned interviewers and Human Resource professionals consider these types of responses to be “red flags” or indicators of potential problems.

No one is perfect, everyone has weaknesses, and expert interviewers like Human Resource professionals, Psychologists, etc., are well-aware of that.  Even if a job applicant has been tremendously successful in previous roles, new roles and higher-level positions will always present new challenges and will require skill development.  With that in mind, candidates who openly demonstrate insight into their weaknesses and an attitude of commitment to continuous self-improvement are often chosen over candidates who try to hide their weaknesses.        

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