"Weakness" question in interviews

blatiniblatini Member Posts: 285
How do you guys respond to this typically?

I have usually said that I tend to be a bit of a scatter brain jumping from project to project and can forget things but remedy it by carrying around a pad of paper to write down important details/keep track of what needs to be done each day. Yesterday was my first interview in about two years and as I explained this the interviewer made some facial reactions resembling this:

http://giphy.com/gifs/andrew-qufYTFHIXzdD2

I'm curious what you guys think of this response and how you respond to the question. Hoping to possibly better phrase my answer :)
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Comments

  • Node ManNode Man Member Posts: 668 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I'm brutally honest. When i first got into IT recruiters would call me with ridiculous questions. As if they never read my resume or knew what a CCNA indicates. After the first few irritating interviews i would start conversations with - I refuse to do VOIP, I only know a little about MPLS. I do love BGP.. etc etc etc.

    The right recruiters will respect that, and it will help you get placed better to your existing skills.

    As far as a weakness be honest, mine is : " I will spend way too long researching a problem."
  • 636-555-3226636-555-3226 Member Posts: 976 ■■■■■□□□□□
    #1 is those tests some employers require you take. basically an IQ test regarding things you knew in high school. if i was 18 again i'd ace them 100%. nowadays, not so much...... who in the the world remembers how to do complex long division?
  • blatiniblatini Member Posts: 285
    Maybe I didn't phrase the question right. This seems to be a standard interview question along the lines of "What is something you identify as a weakness in yourself professionally and how do you deal with this?" You can also substitute "personally" for "professionally." Some places that emphasize group dynamic seem to ask that line of question more often.
  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    Giving you a perspective from a hiring manager - this question is about the following for me:

    1 - are you honest enough to convince me that your answer is believable
    2 - can you avoid the cliche answers from the internet "I'm too much of a perfectionist etc" - this is a big turn off and shows lack of credibility
    3 - acknowledgement that you are fallible.
    4 - most of us love to help fix things, so an honest answer will get us working with you to fix your weakness if you are open and honest.

    Being honest doesn't mean you have to say "I like to steal from my employer", but put it in a way that you invite help, eg "I have trust issues with authority figures and really want a boss who can instill trust and confidence".

    Just my take on it.

    thanks
    Iain
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,309 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I really don't like the question myself and I won't ask people that when interviewing. Most people prep a BS spun positive as negative as UncleB mentioned. "I just work too hard and can't pull myself away!" That or they struggle with the question if they haven't answered and then feel uncomfortable. You might get the rare person who is really honest and it gives you insight into their personality but I'd rather ask other things and just have a flowing conversation to find out more about them.
  • TeKniquesTeKniques OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, SSCP, MCSE (03), Security+, Network+, A+, Project+ Member Posts: 1,262 ■■■■□□□□□□
    The best way to handle this type of question is to make something that can appear to be a weakness a strength. What do I mean? I was asked this question in my last interview and my response was:

    "I'm typically a perfectionist and take pride in my work, so sometimes I spend extra time on priorities to ensure that I get things right."

    See what I did there?
  • thomas_thomas_ CompTIA N+/S+/L+ CCNA R&S CCNP R&S/Enterprise/Collab Member Posts: 998 ■■■■■■■□□□
    I usually say I'm not as organized with paper work as I would like to be and that I've made gradual improvements over time to become more organized.
  • markulousmarkulous Member Posts: 2,394 ■■■■■■■■□□
    I think it's a pretty weak question. People are usually going to give canned responses for something like this.
  • E Double UE Double U Member Posts: 1,947 ■■■■■■■■■□
    I was asked this when I interviewed for my NOC job back in '06. I said I have a difficult time asking for help from senior teammates when they haven't been helpful previously. It can discourage me from reaching out to them again even when I really need the assistance.
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  • MishraMishra Member Posts: 2,468 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I want individuals in here to think about how 'weak' this question is.

    In sales and leadership, you need to be prepared to explain the weaknesses of your business or offering. If you encounter an organization that is looking at you for a multi million dollar deal but they want to know what you are weak at, you damn well be able to tell them.

    It's the same with these interview questions. You aren't perfect.


    My answer to this is not intuitive so I hope it helps. I like to give a scenario that I went through when I was weak:

    "What would you say your top 3 weaknesses are?"

    "Well, I drink too much coke, wish I exercised more, and sometimes type things strangely in an email because my mind is going faster than my fingers. But I think something more applicable is to tell you a mistake I made in the past and what I learned from it... One day at the console of this database server...."

    Remember, every question they ask you, no matter the 'canned response' is one where you can give a non-canned response to set yourself a part from everyone else. So next time, think outside the box.
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  • UncleBUncleB Member Posts: 417
    TeKniques wrote: »
    "I'm typically a perfectionist and take pride in my work, so sometimes I spend extra time on priorities to ensure that I get things right."

    See what I did there?

    You just made the interview panel groan on the inside LOL...

    Seriously, we want to know if you are honest enough to admit you aren't perfect and have heard this line dozens of times. Hearing someone say "I get nervous when dealing with angry customers but I've been working with my previous manager to improve my confidence. I'm getting better and continue to work on it" will be such a breath of fresh air.

    Openness, humility and positive action to work on a failing are all ticks in the box for the right sort of employee.

    Canned responses are going to work against you as you come across as being an cardboard cutout of a person.

    The alternative to this is to play the humour card - eg "my biggest weakness is that I failed to become a multi millionaire by the time I was 20 as I planned to, but I've learned that short of robbing a bank this is unlikely to happen. I'm working on a foolproof way to get away with this so if you have any recommendations it could help me improve".

    This plays into the fact they are expecting a canned response, as do you and you are making light of it and inviting them to join in the joke - humour, engagement, wry cynicism and invitation to participate - likely to break up an otherwise dull round of interviews and make them remember you.

    thanks
    Iain
  • TeKniquesTeKniques OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, SSCP, MCSE (03), Security+, Network+, A+, Project+ Member Posts: 1,262 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Hi Iain,

    I guess we can agree to disagree. The example I gave was not a "canned" response, that's actually true to what I do. I'm an admitted perfectionist and take pride in my work to get it right. That can be seen as a "weakness" by some, but not by me.

    My point is that everyone can find something that could be considered a "weakness" and turn it into a strength. Personally I think questions about your "strengths" and "weakness" does no one any good. In my opinion they are trap questions by the interview panel to gauge the response of the victim, I mean the candidate. So to be ready for those sort of questions you need to know your answers prior to the interview. I can't tell you how many times I've asked that question interviewing candidates and they do something like (put their hand on their chin or point eyes to the ceiling) "Well, lets see ... well I'm a hard worker, sometimes I'm late back for lunch, etc. etc."

    The purpose of the interview should be to see if the candidate is a good cultural fit in the company ... knowing strengths and weaknesses can easily be ascertained through questions that imply both.
  • Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,309 ■■■■■■■■□□

    I guess we can agree to disagree. The example I gave was not a "canned" response, that's actually true to what I do. I'm an admitted perfectionist and take pride in my work to get it right. That can be seen as a "weakness" by some, but not by me.


    The problem is that your non-canned response is the same canned response that lots of others use. I've seen it used as an example in articles in how to answer that same question and spin a "negative" so you look good anyway. The issue of course, is that even if it is true in your case, most people hear that and roll their eyes because it sounds like just another person giving that same, "I'm so awesome it's a problem" sort of answer.
    The alternative to this is to play the humour card - eg "my biggest weakness is that I failed to become a multi millionaire by the time I was 20 as I planned to, but I've learned that short of robbing a bank this is unlikely to happen. I'm working on a foolproof way to get away with this so if you have any recommendations it could help me improve".


    I had an interview years ago where I wasn't really getting the vibe I wanted to work there. They asked me the weakness question and I told them I eat more carbs than I should, I try not too but I just have a weak spot for baked sweets. They all laughed and kept going.
  • iBrokeITiBrokeIT GRID, GICSP, GCIP, GXPN, GPEN, GWAPT, GCFE, GCIA, GCIH, GSEC, CySA+, Sec+, eJPT Member Posts: 1,312 ■■■■■■■■■□
    UncleB wrote: »
    You just made the interview panel groan on the inside LOL...

    Canned responses are going to work against you as you come across as being an cardboard cutout of a person.

    It goes both ways... there is certain irony in asking such a canned and lazy question then receiving and complaining about a canned answer.
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  • fmitawapsfmitawaps Banned Posts: 261
    If I answered the question "what are some of your weaknesses" honestly, I'd never get hired.

    Some of my honest answers might be:

    1. By the second day I will be figuring out how much it'll matter if I come in late, take a long lunch, and leave early.
    2. If there's any old laptops or parts laying around, I will try to find a way to "repurpose" them.
    3. The resume you're reading has been heavily sugar-coated, or "optimized".
    4. I have little tolerance for bosses with an attitude.
    5. I believe naptimes at work increase productivity.
  • PJ_SneakersPJ_Sneakers CompTIA, EC-Council, ISACA, Microsoft USAMember Posts: 884 ■■■■■■□□□□
    I Peter Gibboned the hell out of an interview because I was sick of the stupid games interviewing managers were playing. They asked me my biggest weakness and I told them I'm a procrastinator and I don't get things done until the very last minute. Got the job. icon_thumright.gif
  • Sheiko37Sheiko37 Member Posts: 214 ■■■□□□□□□□
    TeKniques wrote: »
    The best way to handle this type of question is to make something that can appear to be a weakness a strength. What do I mean? I was asked this question in my last interview and my response was:

    "I'm typically a perfectionist and take pride in my work, so sometimes I spend extra time on priorities to ensure that I get things right."

    I'd expect the interviewer to nod and write on their notepad "weakness - is a bullshit artist".
  • TeKniquesTeKniques OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, SSCP, MCSE (03), Security+, Network+, A+, Project+ Member Posts: 1,262 ■■■■□□□□□□
    ^ classy guy ... presumptions about someone just very well could be your weakness.
  • Sheiko37Sheiko37 Member Posts: 214 ■■■□□□□□□□
    When they ask you what have you done recently to help fix that weakness, what do you say?
  • TeKniquesTeKniques OSCE, OSCP, CISSP, CISA, SSCP, MCSE (03), Security+, Network+, A+, Project+ Member Posts: 1,262 ■■■■□□□□□□
    ... The thread isn't about me. No reason to offer an answer to a question that's fishing for more ammo. I offered an opinion to the OP on how to answer this question during an interview. He/she or anyone else can take that as it is and that's that; some obviously don't agree and made some valid points. You don't agree either, and that's fine, just no reason to make it personal.
  • Sheiko37Sheiko37 Member Posts: 214 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I don't know why you think I'm taking it personal. It's a standard follow up question to weaknesses that anyone should expect in an interview. If you can't follow up a your answer with what you're doing about it, then it shouldn't be your answer.
  • dustervoicedustervoice Member Posts: 877 ■■■■□□□□□□
    Here is my response to what is my weakness question: " I cant benchpress more than a 100 pounds but i'm eating more lately to build my muscles" I do this with a serious stare in the face like do you really think i'm gonna answer that question the way you want me to.
  • the_Grinchthe_Grinch Member Posts: 4,165 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I second the "turning the weakness into a strength" as that is truly the point of the exercise. Obviously you should make it applicable to technology. My typical answer is that "I tend to be messy with things appearing to be scattered, but that it is ordered chaos". Then I'll add that I am continually working on fixing it etc.
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  • powerfoolpowerfool Senior Member Member Posts: 1,654 ■■■■■■■■□□
    If they ask what I have done to fix a weakness, I respond: "Nothing. I'd rather leverage my strengths to maximum advantage like I have learned from so many other disciplines, like science, economics, etc."

    If I get that question... I don't know what the interviewers weaknesses are... but I now know that they are numerous.

    I hate BS questions.
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  • Danielh22185Danielh22185 Member Posts: 1,195 ■■■■□□□□□□
    I'd definitely say the best strategy for this question is to answer truthfully and to an extent that isn't damaging to your image. These types of questions really are silly and really offer no value in the interview process. I guess the only real value it holds is to see if the person has prepared for the question. If they did prepare for the question though that means they expect to be asked it and understand its a cliche question. As an interviewer I would be more interested if the person did some research about the company / position they are interviewing for rather than preparing for dumb interview questions.
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  • thomas_thomas_ CompTIA N+/S+/L+ CCNA R&S CCNP R&S/Enterprise/Collab Member Posts: 998 ■■■■■■■□□□
    Here is my response to what is my weakness question: " I cant benchpress more than a 100 pounds but i'm eating more lately to build my muscles" I do this with a serious stare in the face like do you really think i'm gonna answer that question the way you want me to.
    This would be even more awesome if you are 220 pounds, solid muscle, and no body fat.
  • MutataMutata Member Posts: 176
    UncleB wrote: »
    Giving you a perspective from a hiring manager - this question is about the following for me:

    1 - are you honest enough to convince me that your answer is believable
    2 - can you avoid the cliche answers from the internet "I'm too much of a perfectionist etc" - this is a big turn off and shows lack of credibility
    3 - acknowledgement that you are fallible.
    4 - most of us love to help fix things, so an honest answer will get us working with you to fix your weakness if you are open and honest.

    Being honest doesn't mean you have to say "I like to steal from my employer", but put it in a way that you invite help, eg "I have trust issues with authority figures and really want a boss who can instill trust and confidence".

    Just my take on it.

    thanks
    Iain

    Do you find this statement somewhat ironic? Asking people to avoid cliche answers when asking possibly the most cliche interview question? Personally the best interviews I've ever had were ones that included very few of the stock standard "Tell me a problem you've faced and how you solved it" questions.
  • OctalDumpOctalDump Member Posts: 1,722
    "I don't react well to cliched interview questions"
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  • MutataMutata Member Posts: 176
    I just hope the interviewer comes to the interview a bit more prepared than that. Interviewers often miss that an interview goes two ways - especially for technically talented people who may have multiple opportunities. It's as much of a sales pitch for the organization as it is for the candidate. I'm all about having a meaningful discussion about what each party can offer each other. I'm not sure asking me what my weakness is is the fastest way to get there.
  • rsuttonrsutton Member Posts: 1,029 ■■■■■□□□□□
    Mutata wrote: »
    I just hope the interviewer comes to the interview a bit more prepared than that. Interviewers often miss that an interview goes two ways - especially for technically talented people who may have multiple opportunities. It's as much of a sales pitch for the organization as it is for the candidate. I'm all about having a meaningful discussion about what each party can offer each other. I'm not sure asking me what my weakness is is the fastest way to get there.

    I agree with you, sort of. An interview does not start out as a sales pitch, until and unless the interviewer determines they want to hire you.
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