How to Handle the “Tell me about yourself” Interview Question

“What is your greatness weakness?” nullifies the notion that there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

answering the tell me about yourself interview questionWhen it comes to job interviews, there’s no faster way to burst your “I’m the ideal candidate!” bubble than a hiring manager asking you to tell him about your weaknesses. Offering up the wrong answer to this question can not only be embarrassing, but an interview ending move. Avoid making a professional gaffe with our advice on how to handle the dreaded “Tell me your weakness” interview question.

Why it’s a bad question. Asking a candidate to divulge his weakness is as pointless as asking a lady her age – in either scenario, you aren’t likely to receive a straightforward answer. An interviewee will never reveal a weakness that could jeopardize his shot at landing a job. Therefore, any answer given will be one that is carefully constructed so as to paint the candidate in the best light possible.

Why recruiters ask. Bad question as it may be, “What is your greatest weakness?” appears more frequently in job interviews than junk mail does in your inbox. Rookie recruiters inquire about your flaws to gauge your response. While you may be expecting the question, the pressure of an interview does unpredictable things to otherwise prepared candidates. If your resolve crumbles under a simple question, how can you be useful in a high stakes work situation?

What they’re looking for. A hiring manager expects you to answer the question with a real weakness, rather than a generic answer like “I’m a workaholic.” Gone are the days of merely spinning a negative into a positive or masking a strength as a weakness. Recruiters aren’t buying it. Consider these dos and don’ts when generating possible answers to the weakness question.

What not to say. Being truthful doesn’t mean crossing into TMI territory. Giving your recruiter too much information, especially when it’s irrelevant or inappropriate, could cost you the job. Only mention job specific weaknesses. Remember that the hiring manager wants to hear about a weakness that could impact your job, not your weakness for exotic dancers or your irrational fear of porcelain clown figurines.

What to say. Don’t be afraid to fess up to a legitimate weakness. Though your hiring manager sits in a seat of judgment during your interview, even she understands that no one is infallible. Talk about your weakness in relation to how you combat it. A few examples include:

I’m not a morning person, so I make sure to get eight hours of sleep each night and set an early alarm. I eat breakfast, exercise,interview and shower so that I can feel alert before I begin my day.

I tend to overextend myself at times, but my new best friend is my smartphone scheduling app. I also keep a pen and notepad handy as backup.

I’m a people person. I’ve been practicing the art of speaking only when spoken to in meetings and saving my gift of gab for client relationships. My love of communication has served me well with prospecting, negotiating, and closing deals.

I’m a control freak. However, through my supervisory background, I have learned to delegate tasks when appropriate and trust the competence of my colleagues.

How do you tackle the infamous “weakness” question? Do you have any additional advice?

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