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Becoming a great negotiator How to answer 'tell me about your weaknesses'

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Published: 18 November 2021

Student in a class

Going into a job interview, you should be prepared. You understand the company; you know the role. You can even talk about yourself and how suited you are for the position.

But what of the things you’re not so great at? Do you know how to talk about your weaknesses?

It might seem like an odd question for interviewers to ask, but ‘tell me about your weaknesses’ is one of the more common.

There are a few simple reasons why. The most obvious is the interviewer looking for a reason not to hire you. Do not fall into this trap!

The other, and more important, is they’re testing to see how self-reflective you are and that you can address things you know to be issues.

You have to walk a fine line between telling them too much (or being harsher on yourself than necessary) and pretending that you don’t have any faults.

It’s also important you avoid the trap of trying to turn a positive into a negative, for example ‘Sometimes I work too hard.’

Instead, try things like:

1) I’m too detail-focused

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be detail-orientated but being too much of a perfectionist can mean other stuff doesn’t get done.

If this sounds like you, give an example of when you put more work into something than was needed then talk about how you fixed it.

For example, did you start using a task manager to make sure you hit your deadlines?

2) I have trouble saying no

This can be a problem, especially for new starters who are eager to please. Agreeing to every piece of work is a great way of getting overwhelmed.

Again, make sure you give an example of when this became an issue then say how you fixed it and what you learned.

It’ll be a chance for you to talk about how you now prioritise and communicate with people.

3) I could use more experience

Admitting you don’t have the training for something which is required in the job can be a little scary.

You might think that a company won’t hire you if you don’t have the skills they need.

But the truth is a lot of companies look for people they can train up.

Putting that kind of commitment into an employee means they’re likely to stay with the company for longer and you’ll learn how to do things the way the business does them.

It’s easier to train an under-skilled new person than attempt to break the habits of someone that’s been doing it a different way for a long time.

4) I sometimes find it hard to ask for help

A lot of roles will ask you to be both an independent worker and capable of achieving success in a team.

Being able to say you struggle with teamwork is not bad if you know it’s an issue and that you're taking steps to resolve it.

For one thing, it shows you can work on your own, which is essential for a lot of workplaces.

But make sure you talk about how you know it’s important to ask for help and you recognise when others have expertise you don’t.

There will be plenty of other areas of your working life that could do with a little improvement.

The trick is to be honest and open about what you think you need to work on and be able to show how you’re trying to get better.

Job interviews can be surprisingly helpful at providing insights into your life both inside and outside of employment.

See this question as an opportunity and you’ll have a great chance at landing that dream job.

Whatever you decide to do with your future, the University of Sunderland in London Careers and Employability Service is here to help.

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass or email them at out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.