Job interviews are full of questions we would all rather sidestep, but one you can generally bank on is that spiel about your weaknesses.
Should one be honest and admit to being bone idle, or should one take the opportunity to drop the old ‘sometimes I’m accused of being too committed to my work’ angle?
Of course there have been millions of studied conducted on how interviewers respond to questions, but we’re going to trust one from Harvard.
QZ reports on that study:
Harvard researchers asked undergraduates to answer a job interview question about their weaknesses. Only 23% gave actual negative qualities: I procrastinate. I overreact to situations. The other 77% hid their weaknesses inside a humblebrag: I’m too nice. I’m too demanding when it comes to fairness. When collaborators reviewed the answers, they were 30% more interested in hiring the candidates who acknowledged a legitimate weakness.
…self-promotion only paid off when the audience was distracted enough to remember the information but forget the source. Otherwise, they saw right through it: “If you were that great, you wouldn’t need to boast about your greatness.”
Honesty is the best policy? That makes a nice change.
As for talking up your long list of achievements? Well, there’s a lesson to learn there too:
Undergraduates who played up their skills and accomplishments were not significantly more likely to get job offers. Executives who tried to impress board members with their qualifications did not succeed in landing more board seats. And employees who went out of their way to highlight their successes had substantially lower salaries and promotion rates.
Compared to flattery and favors [sic], researchers James Westphal and Ithai Stern explain, “self-promotion is less consistently effective… it is less subtle and more transparent.”
…By admitting your inadequacies, you show that you’re self-aware enough to know your areas for improvement—and secure enough to be open about them. That you’re interested in being hired for what you actually bring to the table, not what you pretend to bring.
Admit to all your flaws and downplay your achievements – seems easy enough.
Good luck out there.
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