Trap interview question: what are your weaknesses?

When I am recruiting for someone in my team, it’s probably no different to any other interview process – I receive details of lots of candidates, and try to narrow them down to one.

This narrowing down exercise could be by various means: by reading cvs, interviewing, reference checking, internal 2nd opinions and / or on-line tests. Recruiters use all of these techniques with one objective – which is to find a reason NOT to hire each candidate. It’s a “last one standing” approach, and I reckon that many hiring processes are the same.

So bear this in mind in an interview: be yourself and answer honestly, but don’t say anything to rule yourself out, and avoid the obvious traps. The first trap question is: What are your weaknesses?

I find it a bit annoying to be on the receiving end of that “weaknesses” question as it’s not the most imaginative, but we all need to be prepared for it. The worst answer to is to admit to a weakness that is fatal for the role – remember that the interviewer is looking for reasons to reject you.

But then again, I’m not sure that I agree with the standard advice that you should present a strength as a weakness, such as “I’m a perfectionist”, or “I find it frustrating when people with whom I work don’t pull their weight”. I don’t find that sort of answer credible.

So what’s the best answer? I’m still trying to work this out, but I think that it has to be genuine and credible – maybe to present a real weakness, but a solvable one. Or a weakness that is not relevant to the role of being a solicitor. Interested in anyone else’s view on this one.


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