You’ve got an interview at an awesome company, and you’re eagerly waiting to tell them why you’re so excited about working with them. During the interview, you answer all of the questions from the hiring manager with ease.
“What do you consider your biggest negative quality?”
What? Negative qualities? How do I say that I’m not good at something without looking bad? I should’ve prepared for this better, you think, as your heart starts to race.
If you don’t prepare a good answer to this question, you may very well encounter this scenario.While there’s no universal formula to successfully answering this question, there are definitely things you can do to increase your chances of impressing the recruiter/hiring manager — and eventually, getting that desired job.
Here’s what you can do to make answering this question a lot easier for you.
Mistakes to Avoid
Before we list good negative qualities, it's worth learning about the mistakes that people tend to make while answering this question.
Refusing to Answer
Some people choose not to answer this question or say that they can’t think of a single weakness applicable to the job. To a hiring manager, this answer means that the candidate came unprepared and is afraid of saying the wrong thing — or even worse, hiding something.
Masking a Positive as a Negative
Some people answer this question in a way that tries to make them look good. For example, they may say “I care too much for my work, so working overtime is okay for me” or “I tend to work especially hard at times, and that’s what my previous employers liked about me.”
Remember: recruiters are wise to these tricks, and it gets old.
“A hiring manager has heard hundreds of people saying the same things to them and trying the same dance," says Jim Cousins, an HR expert from EssaySupply. “It’s an old trick that no one buys anymore, so avoid it.”
Revealing a Critical Weakness
Some job seekers confess weaknesses that can potentially hurt their chances of succeeding in the role. For example, if somebody in a sales role says they're not much of a people person, the hiring manager may question their ability to adequately perform their daily tasks. While being honest is great, being too honest in this case will hurt your chances of getting the job.
Now, let’s go over some things you should do when talking about your negative qualities in a job interview.
Keep in Mind What the Company Needs
Remember: Your potential employer uses this seemingly innocent question to suss out your ability to perform your responsibilities. To determine which negative qualities or professional weaknesses you should say, research the position you want to get and determine which qualities would not have a significant impact.
Explain How You Want to Improve Yourself
You should have an improvement plan for each quality you identify as negative during the interview. This shows your commitment to eliminate the impact of that quality on your work and improve yourself as a professional.
Good Negative Qualities to Say in an Interview
If time management is your weakness, then you can say that you’re controlling it by using reminders, alarms and calendars on digital devices you have.
Getting Stressed Around Deadlines
While it’s reasonable to worry a bit because of an approaching deadline, getting too worked up about them can be seen as a negative. You can say that you’re battling this issue by setting reasonable deadlines instead of ambitious ones like you used to.
Being Too Critical of Yourself
Maybe you’ve been too critical of yourself, especially in the beginning of your professional career — generating too much negativity can definitely be seen as a weakness. But today, you choose to actively pause and celebrate your accomplishments, which helps with self-esteem.
While there's nothing wrong with shyness in itself, the modern workplace often requires you to interact with many people, so employers may consider it a weakness. If shyness is indeed your negative quality, you can say that you’re managing it by taking an improv or professional speaking class that requires you to talk a lot.
Oh, sweet procrastination. So many people have this problem — maybe you do, too — and it is definitely not a good one for work. If you say that procrastination is your negative quality, assuage the hiring manager’s worries by saying that you’re managing it by creating daily schedules to hold yourself accountable.
Getting asked what your weaknesses are is never easy, but with a little research and practice, you'll be prepared. Good luck!
Silvia Giltner is an HR manager, career coach and freelance writer. Her passion is to help people make career changes and get jobs they truly love by showing them how to take full control over their careers. She is also an active guest contributor who has been featured on Forbes, Next Avenue, TLNT, OnlineWritersRating and more.