I’ve been in the same job for just over five years now but I still read What Color is Your Parachute? every year. In my opinion it’s the best job-hunting guide and we get constant requests for it. Some of the sections change substantially, some just a bit, but the examples of weaknesses for interviews in the job hunting section never really seems to change.
I would guess that I’ve been interviewed 25 times over the course of my various jobs. I doubt that I’ve been asked what my weaknesses are more than three times. Still, whenever I read a book or a job-hunting article that mentions interviewing questions, the dreaded “what is your greatest weakness?” type questions are always there.
I’ve had some recent insight into this; I recently conducted over 20 interviews at the library in order to select the next round of candidates. We did not ask the candidates what their weaknesses were, but several of the candidates volunteered the information so it was apparent that they had prepared for the question, even though we didn’t ask it!
Here are some examples that I have given in interviews, and that I have had given to me:
I work too hard.
I’m a perfectionist.
I have a hard time not taking my work home with me.
I expect a lot from others which can make me hard to work with.
I have a hard time relaxing.
I take my jobs too seriously.
I hate to take sick leave, so I come to work even when I shouldn’t sometimes.
You get the picture. Except for a couple of answers that were just completely off the wall, most of the answers share a common theme: I’m really good at my job, so good that it can alter my quality of life.
I am more convinced with each interview I give or that I participate in that seeing how people answer this question is as important, or more important, as the answer they actually give. You can learn a lot about someone by how they respond to something this tricky.
For me, the best interviews I’ve given are always the ones where I don’t oversell or try to pretend I know things I don’t. It can be hard to do, especially when you are interviewing for a job that you’re desperate to have.
For you astute readers, if you’ve given, or received, other answers that could be helpful to anyone else, please feel free to share them in the comments.