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Job interviewers started to ask "naming own weak sides" during the job interview. Understandingly, I still want to pass the interview.

Assuming a normal very typical guy without any major issues, which possible weaknesses would be more or less Ok to say without making them a serious reason to reject the candidate? The problem is, I seem having no control on how seriously the interviewer will take that "weak sides", and almost any issue can be represented as an unacceptable problem if driven to extreme.

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    There are hundreds of online articles on this subject. We don't know you, and thus couldn't say. Whatever you say make sure to also point out how you "overcame" that shortcoming. – AndreiROM May 6 '16 at 19:17
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    I personally am really bad at coming up with weaknesses during an interview. – gnasher729 May 6 '16 at 19:48
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    It can be said about every question that the answer is probably described somewhere. – eee May 6 '16 at 19:55
  • Of all things, I would think that interview questions should be on topic. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica May 6 '16 at 20:28
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This is a tricky question to answer, probably a lot trickier than people expect. A couple of tips:

  • Do not come in with a strength that you're casting as a weakness. Actually cite a weakness. If you say "well, I just work too hard, I guess that's a weakness!" then people will not only see right through it but they'll see the flip side of that particular "strength" and will understand that it's a weakness (a lot of people who think that they work hard really don't, for instance, and instead whine all the time about how nobody works as hard as they do). If you have a strengthy-sounding thing that's a weakness in your eyes, actually tell them why it's a weakness (for the previous one, perhaps you have a poor sense of work/life balance and can get burnt out easily without noticing it).

  • Similar to the above, if you don't particularly care about improving something, it's not really a weakness. There is an example in another comment provided of saying "I am not good at public speaking" if you are a developer. Well, if that's not actually something you want to fix, why even bring it up? It makes you sound like you're ducking the question at best, and at worst you may be touching on an issue you didn't intend to be on the interview program, so to speak (for instance, what if you're joining a large-ish scrum team where you have to say a couple sentences in front of 10-15 people every day? What if you have to fill in and do BA work from time to time?).

  • I think that what this question is really about, generally speaking, is two things: one, to see how introspective you are in the sense of how well you actually can identify your personal failings, and also what you do when faced with adversity. This is why you want to give the interviewer a gameplan, so to speak, on how you're working on overcoming this weakness. "I dislike speaking in front of large and small groups, but I'm working on overcoming that by [talk about a hobby you do that forces you to speak to small groups for example]." "I have a hard time saying 'no' to people when they give me work (yes, this is a weakness, big time), but I'm working on that by meticulously scheduling my time and actually figuring out if I have enough time in the day to do something before answering in the affirmative." And so on.

  • You can even talk about something that used to be a weakness for you but isn't so much anymore. "Well, I used to be bad at public speaking but then I enrolled in Toastmasters and now I'd like to think that it's a strength." This is definitely better than the weakness-that-isn't-a-weakness or the weakness-that-doesn't-apply-to-the-job but it's still not ideal. The biggest worry here is that some people will get miffed that you didn't actually answer the question.

The thing to remember - and sorry if I sound like a broken record here because I say this whenever I respond to a question about interviews - is that the interview process is as much about them auditioning for you as the other way around. If you do not deal well with bosses that yell a lot, maybe bring that up. If they decline to hire you because they would have put you underneath a yelly boss, then you dodged a bullet. So long as you present yourself humbly and don't give them something that says that they can't hire you ("My weakness is that I am an alcoholic"), bear in mind that you want to find a place that will accommodate you as much as they want you to accommodate them.

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Give a weakness that is unrelated to the job. I.E. a programmer may say "I don't like public speaking". Show me a programmer that does. Or, if the interview is relaxed, you may insert a joke first like "Aside from Kryptonite", then go to something irrelevant to the position.

Another approach is to focus on something you're working on. "I'm not very good at public speaking, but I'm taking classes to correct that".

The one that they've all heard before is the old "I'm too detail oriented" or something like that. If you do, expect a followup like "Really? So, since you're so detail oriented, do you get bogged down with them? Do you ever get into a period where you can't see the forest for the trees kind of thing? Do you have trouble seeing the big picture?"

  • I'd go with the kryptonite one as well. Wish I could apply for a job just so I could use it. – Kilisi May 6 '16 at 21:47
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    Show me a programmer that does [like public speaking]. Raises hand. :) – Jane S May 8 '16 at 8:45
  • @Jane S I'm a programmer that used to hate public speaking, then I became a teacher and got used to speaking in front of people (albeit kids), and then I started loving it. Now I sign up for panels at cons and stuff and really enjoy it. – Andrew Whatever May 9 '16 at 18:50
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At this point in my life I'm just honest. I have no interest in obtaining a job where people think I'm perfect. Usually I find something related to the job where I can demonstrate a weakness, and then INSTANTLY follow it up with my plan to correct that weakness, generally in a way that reminds them of my strengths.

For example, I've been interviewing for elementary computer teaching jobs lately. A lot of schools use Macs, and I have next to no experience with Macs. So if asked about my weaknesses I will say something like "Admittedly most of my experience is in Windows, but I've always wanted to learn more Apple stuff. I've been a computer professional for years and I've taught myself complex things like programming languages, 3D modeling and music production, so I have no doubt that I can pick up anything I need to quickly. If allowed I could take one of the laptops home over the summer to get a head start..."

So I guess that is my advice. State weakness, but also state plan to eliminate weakness, and also use this as an opportunity to promote your expertise again.

Of course, many suggest the whole weakness that isn't a weakness strategy like "My weakness is that I work TOO hard!" but that feels to me like the kind of nonsense answer any good interviewer would see as nonsense. I'd rather use the question to talk about real things I can do to eliminate actual weaknesses. It's not like they won't notice gaps in your skillset if you don't directly point them out. They know you have weaknesses, may as well let them know you have a plan, or at least the ability, to deal with those weaknesses.

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The "what are your weaknesses?" question has been a cliche for decades. There are far better questions to ask, but you can answer it successfully if you understand what the interviewer really expects as an answer.

I think @Notvonkaiser's answer is right on, here's another thing to think about...

Keep in mind is that you must not merely "list" weaknesses even if that's what the question is literally asking. If you just list the weaknesses without any context, the interviewer will then choose which one they want to follow-up on with a line of questioning that you can't necessarily predict and which may go down a path that makes you look bad.

Instead, gently shift the control in the situation by immediately giving a narrative of a past work-related incident in relation to something that is a weakness. By launching into the narrative, you can instantly add authenticity to what you're saying (because it actually happened). It also gives you the opportunity to describe how your shortcoming was resolved. Generally speaking, the interviewer wants to assess whether you have the ability to realize and admit when you're wrong, that you can graciously accept criticism and help from others, that you can reflect-on and learn-from failure(*). All of these things are valuable in a workplace.

That said, the most skilled interviewers will use "behavioral interview" techniques that can fish out answers to such concerns more effectively and smoothly. If you you're not dealing with a skilled interviewer, then it becomes your job to compensate for that by answering your questions strategically and with authenticity. Not easy, but it can be done with practice.

(*) There are "old-school" interviewers who may genuinely ask this question because they want to see if you name a weakness that is a no-go for the position. That's rare, but if it happens the advice given here will be overkill but it will work.

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You could start with:

I'm not very good at reflecting on my own situation or acknowledging challenges

... but it's important to show you're aware of the the problem and trying to mitigate it:

One way I have worked to overcome this problem is by asking the internet for 'safe' generic responses to clichéd interview questions.

This might not go down well with everyone, however.

Instead, you could talk to people you've worked with in the past and ask them what they think you could improve on (not everybody will be willing to do this or be forthcoming, so you may need to try several different people). That way you could not only have real answers to your interview questions, you will hopefully actually discover and address your weaknesses.

Don't forget to thank people who give frank feedback.

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You aren't a perfect human being, none of us are. The answer to this question is to give a real weakness. For example, I might mention that I'm bad at time estimation. This then allows you to follow up with how you'll attempt to mitigate/deal with that problem.

We all have weaknesses - the point of the question is to show introspection and the ability to improve over time.

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