Updated November 2023
It finally happened. You get a call to interview for that customer service job you’ve been hoping to get. But now you’re nervous. It’s been a while since your last interview. Or worse, you succumb to anxiety and flub your interview responses. But you are ready to Google your heart out and memorize your answers to the most frequently asked customer service job interview questions.
It seems easy enough. We are told over and over again to highlight our strengths. We are told to show interviewers our “best side.” Put our best foot forward. Never be negative. Always be positive. And then that one question that has the potential to make or break a job candidate’s hiring chances gets asked:
“What Are Your Weaknesses?”
Of all the customer service interview questions that could be asked, this one seems like the easiest to answer — especially based on all the mainstream advice regarding interview answers. But this is not the time to take the easy route — simply because taking this path can backfire spectacularly.
Why This Question is Vital During A Customer Service Job Interview
Does this seem like a trick question? If you feel like this question can basically be translated to “give us a reason not to hire you,” you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Job interviewers want to find the best person for the job. And specific interview questions simultaneously help weed out weaker candidates, saving the company time and money.
But that doesn’t mean that interviewers want you to fail. If you’re called into an interview, something in your professional background piqued the hiring manager’s interest. They want to hire you. So why do job interviewers drop such landmines during an interview?
They Want to Get to Know You Better
A resume can give hiring managers an excellent overview of your professional background. Unfortunately, it says absolutely nothing about who you are as a person. Let’s face it; we all put on an interview facade. Job interviewers want to see past that. And yes, they want to see if you raise any red flags.
But this question isn’t designed to be a trap. Interviewers also want to connect and see if you actually have the skills and character needed for the job. Human nature dictates that employers will have a degree of curiosity about the person they will spend a significant amount of time with during the workweek.
They Want to Know If You’re Capable of Improvement
No one is perfect. Hiring managers know this. What they want to know is how you handle failure. They want to see how you respond when facing challenges. Are you able to grow professionally or acquire new, advanced skills? If you can learn from constructive criticism and meet the milestones to advance your career, everyone wins. Not only has the company hired an excellent employee, but hopefully someone that can grow with the company as well.
They Want to Make Sure You’re a Cultural Fit
Cultural fit is vital because employers want to ensure that your personality aligns with the company or team’s core values. In fact, employees who fit well with their company and colleagues demonstrated superior job performance and greater job satisfaction. For example, someone who works poorly with others isn’t a great cultural fit for a customer service team that’s highly collaborative. For staff required to troubleshoot issues, a lack of empathy or impatience with strangers is a disaster for developing a service-based culture.
Ultimately, avoiding a bad hire from the get-go is more cost- and time-efficient. It’s also better for the job candidate to find a job more suited to their personality and values. Remember, this interview isn’t a one-way street. You are interviewing the company as well. Make a note to figure out if that work environment appeals to you as well.
Why This Question Is Hard To Answer
Self-evaluation is hard, mainly because non-judgmental self-analysis isn’t easy. Moreover, interviews expose us to instant judgment from complete strangers, but the question of weaknesses does so at a deeper level. This question forces us to look inside ourselves and expose our vulnerabilities. More importantly, it opens us up to the possibility of rejection.
Fear of rejection is often the reason behind job applicants avoiding new opportunities. If mishandled, fear is detrimental to career progression. Let’s be clear; no one likes rejection, including the person interviewing you. But taking proactive steps beforehand is crucial to reducing the probability of an interview going sideways.
What To Do During A Customer Service Interview
Select Your Weakness Carefully
Make sure to choose a relatively harmless weakness. For a customer service job interview, make sure that some focused study or practice easily fixes your weakness. Lacking confidence with specific software tools or insecurity on the fluency level of a second language are good examples for customer service interviews. Make sure that you can discuss how you are learning from these challenges. Explain, in detail, the steps you are taking to make improvements.
Try to stay away from personal flaws or traits and remain focused on your professional weaknesses and how they relate to the role. Remember, it’s an interview not a confessional. Oversharing can derail your job candidacy.
Prepare In Advance For The Question
“What’s your greatest weakness” is sometimes asked indirectly. Interviewers may disguise it with a more innocent-sounding question. Be on alert for phrases that resemble the following:
- If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you feel you need to improve on?
- Is there a professional goal you have been unable to meet?
- What do you think is the biggest professional challenge for you?
- If I called your previous boss, what would he or she say you need to work on?
Some targeted practice is essential to a successful interview. But knowing the questions you will be asked beforehand is nearly impossible. Therefore, rehearsal and preparation for the most commonly asked questions will boost self-confidence. Be ready for any follow-up questions that may be triggered by your response. This is likely if your answers are too vague or seem over-rehearsed.
Be Sincere With Your Journey Towards Improvement
Spinning a prepared weakness into a positive asset is an excellent strategy. So consider using an actual example of a skill that you are actively working on improving. Nothing rings more true than an honest answer. Ensure you clarify the actions you’ve taken and how you are currently overcoming your “flaw.”
Don’t be shy about showcasing your results! Spend more time discussing how you are fixing the problem than on the problem itself. Hiring managers and interviewers want problem-solvers. Show them that you are proactive in making positive changes. This will demonstrate your drive and that you’re open to professional growth.
Sometimes it’s best to get it straight from the experts:
If you’ve overcome weakness in a skill listed in your target role and you want to showcase it now as a strength, talk about that weakness in the past. Show what steps you’ve taken to strengthen your skills in that area and cite an achievement to showcase how you’ve used this new strength in a way that relates to the job.Holly Leyva, Career Coach and Expert, Virtual Vocations
What You Shouldn’t Do During A Customer Service Interview
Don’t Lie, Avoid, or Sidestep the Question
Humans are imperfect beings. By avoiding the question of weakness, interviewers may think you have something to hide. Changing the subject by only mentioning your strengths won’t help you either. Hiring managers want to know if you’re the type of employee that blames their issues on someone else or can take responsibility for their shortcomings. This question is designed to reveal your self-awareness and interpersonal skills. It is not optional. Make sure you answer it.
Don’t Talk Your Way Out of a Job
There’s a time and place for the brutal truth. A job interview is not one of them. There’s a difference between answering a question honestly and giving an utterly unfiltered response. Be mindful of the essential requirements for a customer service role. Then, make sure you structure your answer in a way that doesn’t take you out of the running for the job.
Responses to the weakness question should never include these examples:
- It irritates me to hear people complain
- I hate having to repeat myself over and over again
- I dislike talking on the phone
- My weaknesses are video calls; I do anything to avoid them
Be aware that the previous responses are not weaknesses for both in-person or remote customer service job interviews. They are job killers.
Don’t Give a Cliché Answer
Are you a perfectionist? Do you work too hard? Interviewers hear the same clichéd answers and can see right through these generic responses. Worse, many of the people that give these answers end up not being perfectionists nor hard workers at all. With so many job applicants defaulting to answers found on the first page of Google, differentiation is key. Well-prepared candidates get ahead by avoiding these responses altogether. Set yourself apart from the herd with originality.
The mainstream advice given to job seekers is to answer a negative question with a positive response. What many people actually do is to try to turn a positive trait into a weakness just to look good. Unfortunately, this type of response won’t help you. Hiring managers actually want to know if you are self-motivated enough to overcome challenges.
How Virtual Vocations Can Help
Now more than ever, putting your best foot forward is ideal, and preparation is key to career success. If you’re still unsure about how to respond to certain interview questions or want feedback on your interview skills, purchase a session with our Virtual Vocations certified career coaches. Our coaches can provide career advice, help you sharpen your interview skills, and answer any questions you may have regarding your current job search. After that, you may just find that answering the weakness question is one of your greatest interview assets.
Do you have any stellar answers for customer service interview questions? What were they? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your comments. We’d love to hear from you.
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