A question you will often get asked at interview is ‘what is your worst trait?’, ‘what are your weaknesses?’ or ‘what do you think you could most improve on?’ The answer to this question is not ‘Nothing, I’m perfect.’
Employers aren’t looking for perfection. They want to know your flaws, mistakes you’ve made and regrets you have because they shape who you are as a person and employee. Having flaws means there is room for improvement and admitting you aren’t perfect is nothing to be ashamed of. But, there are certain ways that you can acknowledge your flaws, whilst putting a good spin on them. Here are a few examples from Anna Pitts on how to sell your not-so-desirable qualities at interview, recommended by the Graduate Recruitment Bureau who specialise in graduate jobs.
You’re not ‘bossy’- you’re ‘independent’.
Let’s be honest, not everyone ‘loves to work in a team’ and ‘thrives in a group environment’, and that’s ok. Workforces need all kinds of people. It might be a problem if you are some kind of intense, people-hating sociopath who can’t tolerate anyone in the office but preferring to work independently or in leadership roles is ok. When trying to express this to your employers don’t say ‘bossy’, ‘alone’ or ‘hate working with people’. At the end of the day there will be a team element in most professions and if not it would get very lonely! Instead, phrase your point like this; ‘I’ve always worked well independently and enjoy spending time gathering my own thoughts and ideas before putting them to other people. I find I work better in a more secluded environment but will ask for colleagues input when I feel it is needed.’ Something like that paints a positive light on the point you want to make but is still honest.
You’re not ‘stubborn’- you’re ‘determined’.
You like to get your own way. Who doesn’t? There’s no harm in that. In fact it often means you are more determined and driven to succeed until you achieve what you set out to do. This is exactly how you should sell this to your interviewer. Back it up with examples of when you persevered and overcame difficulties until you were successful. If you have anecdotes of conquering challenges and not giving up then your point will have much more weight. Employers won’t want to hire someone stubborn who just won’t budge- they don’t want someone too proud to admit when they have made a bad decision. But what they will appreciate is someone who is committed to their ideas, believes in themselves and their team and will work hard at them no matter what the process will throw at them.
You’re not ‘quiet’- you’re ‘observant’.
Introvert is the new extrovert. Quiet is the new loud and reserved is the new flamboyant. So what if you don’t walk into a room and have an impressive air of authority and charisma that demands the attention of everyone in it? Not every role is best suited to an extrovert and in fact so called ‘introverts’ have far more redeeming qualities than people realise. To the ignorant, quiet people have nothing to say, or are too scared to contribute and get involved. To the informed they are observant, clever, creative, thoughtful and logical. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone with all those fabulous qualities? Don’t undersell yourself just because you aren’t a ‘look at me’ employee. Taking time to get to know people is normal, and taking a quieter approach to your work is greatly appreciated in most settings. Again, have some examples of when a more reserved approach has paid off to reinforce the positives of this point.
You don’t have ‘concentration problems’- ‘you’re creative’.
If you find you are one of those people that has been blessed/cursed with a wandering mind and short attention span then you may not have made it this far into the article. Hopefully you have, as an excellent point is about to be made. Attention wanders because there is too much activity happening in your brain. If that activity is productive, this is far from a flaw. Channel your wandering thoughts into musings related to your work and you’ll be amazed with what ideas you come up with. Being creative is massively attractive to employers who need ideas and solutions people. You think outside the box- a lot- and that’s good! It’s ok to admit you sometimes find the stuffy office environment stifling- the brain needs to be stimulated to reach its full potential, so as long as your concentration doesn’t wander on to YouTube or Facebook whilst at work, you’re fine. Give some examples of when a complete tangent worked to really impress the interviewers.
So there you have it. None of these are flaws, weaknesses or faults. They are quirks, making you individual and a valuable asset to any employer. Take some time before an interview to decide how to phrase your points in the most positive light, and your interviewer will struggle to find any reason to not hire you.
Written by Anna Pitts, a Marketing Assistant and Online Researcher at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. Her work involves PR and outreach and writing informative, interesting advice based articles for graduates and students. Follow her on twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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