This is the humblebrag that could sink you

Humblebragging. It’s an art in it’s own right. And when it comes to job interviews, let the humblebrags begin. When the dreaded “What’s your biggest weakness?” question pops up (and it will), do you retort, “I can be too much of a perfectionist,” or “I take on too much responsibility and don't delegate”?

Many of us have been taught to put a positive spin on replies, turning any potential shortcomings into strengths in a bid to get the upper hand.

But is that really what recruiters want to hear? We turned to question-and-answer site Quora to find out what recruiters had to say about whether you should turn a weakness into an opportunity to humblebrag your way into a job.

Spare me

“Please... don't.  Just stop,” wrote Chau Nguyen, who has screened 250,000 CVs, interviewed 50,000 candidates and hired 4,000 people.

“This is like saying ‘I wish for world peace’ during a beauty pageant interview. You think you're clever by turning the question into an opportunity to brag when in reality it just makes you look bad,” he wrote.

Nguyen has asked the question countless times and cringes when he hears the following answers: “ I'm a perfectionist; I work too hard; I care too much; or I don't have any.”

These responses come across as trite and fake, recruiters overwhelmingly responded.

“It's important to understand why the interviewer is asking this question,” Nguyen continued. “This is chance for you to show that you are humble, aware of your shortfalls, and are actively working to improve on them.”

True colours 

What recruiter Jae Alexis Lee appreciates is honesty.

“Having someone squirm to make their chosen ‘weakness’ seem like an asset doesn't help me form an opinion of the person at all,” she wrote. 

“You know what impresses me? When someone describes a genuine weakness, and then goes on to tell me how they work to acknowledge it and work with it. I've had a candidate (we hired him) tell me that it was hard for him to remember follow-up tasks because he got very focused on what was currently in front of him. Then he went on to describe how he'd used calendaring in Outlook to manage reminders, follow-ups, and adapt his workflow to that blind spot,” Lee wrote. “He owned that it was something he still struggled with, but that he was also very aware of and actively working on.

“If you can't talk to me about yours in an interview, I worry that you will hide mistakes and weaknesses once you’re working for me,” Lee added. 

Honestly answering the question also shows that you are brave, can own your own weakness and are fallible. These aren’t negatives, according to Dushka Zapata, who notes that being flexible and good at adaptation indicates that you have the ability to grow within a company. Owning up also “shows you don’t assign blame to others and [that you] take responsibility,” Zapata wrote.

What’s the point?

“It’s a dumb question I never ask,” wrote Peter D’Autry, an executive headhunter. “[The] answers do not give any insight [into whether] a candidate will be able to perform in the job he or she will be hired for. The question comes up often with recruiter or HR types who do not have an idea what the job is about, and therefore will seek shelter in psycho babble masquerading as assessment methodology.”

Maybe that’s why some people answer the question with their own witty retort to level the playing field.

According to hiring manager Gary Claassen, “The best response I've heard for the biggest weakness question was … ‘Chocolate’.”

“It breaks the ice, shows that you have a sense of humour, and usually causes a smile or laugh. After all, you want something that's going to make you memorable, and showing the hiring manager that you're at ease is a huge step toward being liked,” Classen wrote. “Then, talk about something real that you've been working on overcoming.”

By Maria Atansov

20 March 2016



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