Acing a job interview is all about making a good first impression, and one big way to miss the mark is to answer an age-old question with a cliche.
Responding to the question "what are your weaknesses?" by painting yourself as a perfectionist or a workaholic will likely prompt an eyeroll from Tom Gimbel, CEO of the staffing agency LaSalle Network.
"Oh, yeah, that's a real weakness all right," says Gimbel, who says he's extended offers to "hundreds and hundreds" of people during his 25 years in the hiring business. "You want to be perfect and you work all the time. It's a trick answer."
Rather, when Gimbel poses that question to candidates, he's looking for two things: that you're self-aware, and that you have solutions for your shortcomings.
"The real question that employers have is not what your weaknesses are, it's what your solution to compensate for that is," he says.
Here's how to prepare a solid answer: Think about a technical or a soft skills you'd like to improve and how you're actually taking action on it.
For example, you might discuss that you're not as quick on a certain software related to your work, and you've realized you want to take some classes on it. Or, you might point out that you're not a great writer, so you're working with a writing coach or having a mentor proofread your emails.
"That's a weakness solution," Gimbel says. "We all have weaknesses, and we need to admit what we're not good at."
Overall, Gimbel's No. 1 underrated tip for excelling at a job interview comes down to a little humility: "Be honest about what you stink at."
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