Interview tip: How to talk about your weakness

When someone asks you, in an interview, “What is your weakness?” do not give a bullshit answer. Saying something like, “I pay too much attention to detail” is actually a terrible answer for someone who is getting hired to do detail work. It means you have a deficit in the exact area you’re tying to get hired for.

The best answer to the question is when you tell a truthful answer, because it’s very unlikely will be hired for the thing you are most weak at doing. For example, my weakness is details. I hate them so much that I simply don’t think about them. And if you talk to me about them, I tune you out. I get hired to think big picture. I get hired to create big plans with big results. So no one cares that I don’t do details.

Someone who is a production artist could say his weakness is finance. When people start talking about budgets, he just wants to back to his cube and work on design. So what if he doesn’t like finance? He is not getting hired to do it.

If you don’t know your weakness, take a personality type quiz and the results will show you. Everyone has specific strengths and everyone has specific weaknesses. It’s pretty certain that if you are not clear on your weaknesses then you are not clear on your strengths, and your value at the office will be questionable.

I am writing this post from the Hampton Inn in Skokie, IL. It’s my favorite hotel when we have to stay overnight for my son’s cello lessons. I thought I’d wake up early and drive over to Wilmette to get his new cello. Because he’s outgrown his current cello, (which is 1/8 the size of the cello you are used to seeing). He is moving up to a 1/4 size.

But he’s not moving up because I forgot to pick up the cello yesterday and now the shop is closed. The teacher will be incredulous. We drive four hours each way to go to a cello lesson. We do it twice a week. Which means we are planning our whole lives around cello. So it seems absurd if we are thinking this much about cello that I would forget something so fundamental as getting the right instrument for the lesson.

This is what my real weakness is: mishandling hierarchies of information. Other people have the ability to sift through information faster and decide what is most important.

I don’t have shoes on to have breakfast at the hotel. It’s a buffet. Why does everyone wear shoes to breakfast? It doesn’t make sense to me. We are not going outside. It’s like eating at home. And I don’t put on shoes to eat at home. But there are about fifty people here and no on is wearing socks except me.

I have to work very very hard to look normal because I miss 90% of these moments when I’m doing something that makees sense to me but it’s totally out of step with everyone else. People do not like if you are clearly not following the rules of being with people. There are unwritten agreements that bother people if you don’t know them.

This is what a job interview is about: seeing if you know the unwritten agreements. Did you wear the right clothes for the interview? Do you know the social convention of looking at people when you talk to them? Is your hair in a style that is socially acceptable? Doing one of these things poorly is forgivable. People are forgiving. Doing a lot of them is too off-putting. People like you when you follow social rules.

I study social conventions obsessively because I know it’s the only way I’ll learn them. So when someone does something that I’ve studied, and they do it wrong, I know there is something wrong with them. There is very little variance in social skills, which is why Aspergers is a disorder.

I don’t know why, for instance, everyone is wearing shoes at breakfast, but I know it’s a disorder to not know why.

Maybe you think to yourself, “I am out of step with people all the time. That doesn’t mean I have Aspergers.”

If you think that, you’re right: no Aspergers. Because you know you’re out of step. People with Aspergers are also out of step, but have no awareness about it.

Fundamentally, I don’t care if I don’t follow rules. I don’t have that thing in my head that makes me scared of upsetting social conventions. My brain is good at other things. But it’s hard to tell people that. It’s hard to tell the cello teacher that I really do care so much about my son and his cello playing and I try very hard to remember things like the cello and the music. I know no one else would forget those two things on an eight hour car trip to a cello lesson. I want to tell her “Look, I don’t know left or right either. It’s all incredible. I know. No one can believe how dumb I am! I’m sorry! Please believe me that I’m trying!”

But in a job interview I know how to talk about my strengths and weaknesses. I am great with big picture. I can see the future clearly for ideas and for people. I know where ideas are changing the way we work, I know what people should do with their lives. I can see how everything works in the future but I can’t see what’s going on right now. The feelings people have right now are lost on me. The tasks that could be done in the next five minutes are infinite, most people can sort through them. I can’t.

Some days I think I should stop writing about work because when I write about work, people say, “I hate your workplace posts. I just want you to write about you.” But I love writing about work because the rules are so clear. It’s a game that’s organized by categories and you figure out your personality type and then you go to your category. Then you follow the rules to win by getting influence or power or both. And you get those by being honest with yourself about work, starting with the interview and the question about your weaknesses.

Posted in Interviewing
91 comments on “Interview tip: How to talk about your weakness
  1. Jim says:

    You do a great job of making your workplace posts be about you, which has helped me realize that I should lower the wall between my work life and my personal life, and recognize that I need to be me at work and if work doesn’t mostly fit me, then I’m probably not doing the right thing.

    That said, I’m good with relationships and ideas and OCD enough that I *can* do details if I have to but only for limited periods and only if I can have a good long vacation when I’m done. I tend to hire people to work for me who are good with details to make up for that. It’s how I get by in corporate America. It lets me play to my strengths.

  2. she wins says:

    any personality profilers that won’t charge me $40?

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, shoot. This is a link to the free version. I meant to use this one.

      https://type-coach.com/verifier/signup

      Penelope

      • she wins says:

        And of course, since I started the process and created an account (but exited before paying), it won’t let me access the Express version.

      • Allison says:

        I loved this personality profile tool! Over the years, I’ve taken the full Meyers-Briggs test a couple of times with different results. That made me lose faith in the entire paradigm. After 15 minutes with the type-coach tool, I am now 100% sure of my type . (I swear this is not a paid advertisement.) And I’ve found my tribe with the INFJs. Wow.

  3. TW says:

    Having a buffet breakfast in a hotel is only like eating at home if you let strangers tromp around your home with their dirty shoes while spilling all manner of food and stuff on the floor.

    Of course, maybe you do. In that case, carry on!

  4. Jamie says:

    Please please please don’t stop writing about work. Your work posts are the only sane and rational work advice that I’ve come across and that make perfect sense to me. I am an ENFJ who wishes she was an ISTP. Understanding this helps tremendously.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a really nice comment, Jamie. Thanks. You help me to understand where I fit in the career advice world. And you make me happy to be there.

      Penelope

  5. Carolyn says:

    This was a really insightful post for me — I really do think about my strengths and weaknesses all the time because I’m so concerned about really knowing myself — I feel I can’t know others unless I know myself. Acknowledging my strengths is easy for me, in fact I believe that we all must showcase our strengths as often as possible; it’s just harder for me to acknoweldge my weaknesses. And that’s where I come up short on the knowing myself side.

    However, just a note on sock feet at hotel buffet. Just don’t do it. Wear your shoes. It’s a public place, with open food and lots of people who pay good money for that hotel, and don’t want to look at your sock feet. :)

    • summer says:

      This is so interesting to me, the comments about public places and sock feet. I don’t understand why socks feet offend people and shoe feet don’t. I’m totally baffled at the concept that anyone would be thinking about what was on my feet at all, at a breakfast buffet in a hotel. I’ve never worn my shoes unless it was cold or raining, or we were eating as we checked out of the hotel, for the same reasons outlined in the post. I just never thought about it.

  6. Eric says:

    “When someone asks you, in an interview, “What is your weakness?” do not give a bullshit answer.

    The whole premise of this article nicely ignores the fact that “What is your weakness?” is a bullshit interview question. Perhaps it deserves a bullshit answer?

  7. TD says:

    Please keep writing work advise, they are often helpful. Sometimes when work frustrates me I browse through my reader and stumble upon your old posts about navigating work and I always learn something new. Thanks for that.

    This post, in particular, is very helpful to me. I have given poor answers to the weakness question before. Unfortunately, based on your advise, if I go by my personality’s strengths and weaknesses, then I have to admit that my choice of profession is wrong at the moment.

  8. Bit clueless says:

    *Please* keep writing about work stuff and including the context of your life experience! Your site was recommended to me by a friend recently when I had questions about salary negotiation. You have provided a treasure trove of excellent advice as I navigate a job search and potential relocation. I spent at least two hours reading through the archives the first time I came here and keep coming back for more gems. I don’t know where else to get this pragmatic clear advice on real-world career problems! The rules just aren’t clear to all of us, but the ways in which we tackle them and the decisions we make have very tangible consequences. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful your work posts are!

  9. Nancy says:

    A propos of nothing in this great article (except that I’m passing it onto my son), the Toronto Star has been running a series about ASD over the past couple of weeks. Yesterday’s story was about moms with ASDs and the big question why nobody understands ASD in girls and women.

    I thought of you as I read it. And me. And my mom.

    Great interviews.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1289209–the-autism-project-mothers-with-asd-ask-why-scientists-are-missing-girls

  10. Chris Quick says:

    Penelope,
    I love your posts about personality type, especially when they come with a link to a new test. I never get tired of taking personality tests. I always come up INFJ.

    Here’s my question: what if your weakness is a liability in your field?

    I’m getting an MBA (I work for the university so tuition is free) and I’m really struggling because I suck at math. My GMAT scores in math were barely high enough to make it into the program. My verbal and writing scores were off the charts.

    I’m a marketing and management person. I love reading the Wall Street Journal, but I skip over the pages with numbers. In Finance class, I ask the best questions. I understand the concepts. But my grade in Finance is based on doing math problems, which I hate.

    My Entrepreneurship instructor works as a financial planner. He told us in class one day that his job is to spend his whole day reading and looking for patterns. I was floored. To me, that sounds like the best job ever! But then I thought, no, it can’t be that great. I’m sure there’s math involved.

    My weakness is quantitative skills, but MBA programs are biased toward quantitative people. If I graduate with an MBA, people will expect me to be good at Finance. But I’m not good at Finance. Not the math part of it, anyway. Or Accounting.

    So let’s say I’m interviewing for a job as a consultant or something, and they ask me what my weakness is. Should I be honest and say math? I worry I wouldn’t get hired because it’s an essential skill in business.

    I’d be tempted to say mechanical ability, because it’s truly irrelevant to the position. Don’t ask me to fix the company car! But that’s bullshit.

  11. Annie Kip says:

    I think the key to it all is being authentic. People can relate to you when you are being real and I think people want to work with people who they can relate to. I agree that it is important to know both sides of your qualities – your strengths and weaknesses – because there is always a trade-off. You can talk about the weakness in context. Maybe it is sort of like politicians who use any old question to bring the conversation back around to what they really want to talk about and the points they want to make…but in a more genuine way!

  12. gordana dragicevic says:

    I know you should wear shoes for breakfast at the hotel *because people do*, but now i’m reading these explanations why and i can’t understand any of them… and yes, i have ASD too.
    Mind you, the post has been really helpful, and it is transferable to more than just job interviews. I’m speaking in a radio programme tomorrow morning that is only loosely related to my expertise, and i have no idea what i’m going to say. But reading this, i realise that, if i get a question i can’t answer, it is completely ok to say “sorry, it’s not my field”. It is not my problem if they called the wrong person :) I’ve always worried about these kind of situations, somehow it never ocurred to me it is ok to have a weakness and i don’t need to know everything. Thank you.

  13. Daniel Fath says:

    Damn, Penelope, you nailed it for me – again.

    I met with a recruiting agency last week to discuss an opportunity. Before I walked into the office, I decided that I would be myself and see what happened. No industry jargon. No detachment – if I found myself on a stream of consciousness roll, I’d roll with it.

    When the recruiter arrived I asked if I could take off my suit jacket – the move was symbolic, a shedding of the mental straight jacket. We had a rambling conversation about life, kids, Japan (where I live), and my approach to corporate communication (my profession).

    After an hour she pulled out the job description and told me I was exactly the type of person the company was looking for. She gave me some weekend homework and I left the office on a cloud.

    The requirements were to assess the current state of the company’s communication, offer my suggested remedied and outline how I would build a global team. I am a big idea guy who usually comes up with a map and some major roads but then relies on others to add the towns and landmarks. I was overwhelmed by my inability to focus on the details and wasted the weekend doing everything but the homework – so the house was spic and span by Sunday midnight, but I was a mess. (Just checked the mental hierarchies link you posted, and that’s me exactly.)

    At midnight I rifled off an email to the recruiter, thanked her for the opportunity but acknowledged that someone else was better suited to the position and withdrew from the race.

    The takeaway from this experience is that I can put a name to the problem and begin working on a solution.

  14. Alina says:

    Penelope, it would be nice if you`d write some career advice for INFJs. I don`t know your experience with them, but I find that INFJs have problems focusing on career, because doing stuff they are passionate about and getting them done is much more important for them than self promoting and people only tend to pay attention when they achieve something really big. I think this can be a pretty tricky situation. You were saying you`d wish someone would design a personality type test for your blog use and I love how you pay attention to the personality aspect, so I can`t wait for more of your advice. I know you sometimes write about specific advice for specific type, but I still can hope for more, right?

    • Chris Quick says:

      I agree! I am also INFJ. I relate to your comment about preferring to do stuff we are passionate about. I often feel misunderstood or underestimated in the workplace.

      • Penelope Trunk says:

        I think the biggest problem for INFPs is that they are smart, and big picture thinkers but they don’t have skills that are worth a lot of money at work.

        This is because INFPs like passionate workplaces, world-changing-ideas, and connections with people through meaningful work. Most people would do this stuff for free. Most people think they go to work to do other stuff (like meet their sales goals) and then they volunteer to achieve these other goals. INFPs insist on making this type of work their profession. So the problem for INFPs is pay rate.

        The best things INFPs can do is accept they will never make a lot of money, or marry someone who makes a lot of money. My favorite path for an INFP is to marry an ENFJ.

        ENFJ’s are capable of being high earners, and for INFPs they are a great match:
        http://www.personalitypage.com/html/INFP_rel.html

        Penelope

        • Rachel says:

          What are ENFJs like in the workplace? As a follow up question. What role do they play? Why are they capable of being high-earners?

          I think I read something on your sight about how as ENFJs, they struggle when they have multiple commitments. I.E. A working mom would not feel successful because she is equally committed to work and her family, but feels like she cannot succeed in either sphere.

          • Penelope Trunk says:

            ENFJs are great at managing people. So are INTJs, but ENFJs actually care about the people they are managing. INTJs are workhorses and they want everyone else to be too.

            So, ENFJs are great until they have kids. And then they get torn between their duty to their work and their duty to their kids. No one gets torn in this arena as much as ENFJs.

            Tough to be an ENFJ, but great to marry one, because they will always want to do things that earn money and they will always want to care for their family.

            Here’s a good link about ENFJs
            https://type-coach.com/types/enfj

            Penelope

        • Chris Quick says:

          Penelope,
          Did you swap INFP for INFJ? We are INFJs. Would you have the same response for an INFJ? If so, I find that really depressing as I want to make decent money.

          • Penelope Trunk says:

            If you really care a lot about money, then you’ll earn money. I think, though, that you don’t care more about money than you care about your ideals. For you, your ideals come before everything else.

            One of the hardest things about choosing a career is not figuring out what’s right for us, but accepting what’s right for us.

            If it’s any consolation, my score is by far the highest earning of all scores. But I had to come to terms with that I’ll never be happy just writing. I’ll always want to do something bigger. When I first learned about myself that way, I was so disappointed. I had an image of the life of a writer and that life wasn’t right for me.

            You might have to do that, too. You might have to deal with the disappointment that you always imagined yourself being a high earner and it’s just not what’s right for you.

            Or, maybe, you care way more about money than you realize and then you’re probably not an INTP. It’s very hard to get that score and care a lot about money.

            Penelope

          • Chris Quick says:

            Penelope,
            Your answer is making me think, a lot, about what I really want. You’re right that I care about my ideals more than I care about money. But the thing about money is it’s a convenient measure of one’s value in the marketplace, and a way to tell how much people think you’re contributing.

            I keep thinking that the key to feeling successful careerwise is to find some ideal place where what I love to do matches something the world values and rewards with money. Maybe this is delusional given that all the things I’m interested in make the list of top ten worst majors for your career. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/worst-college-majors-for-your-career.html?page=all

            Maybe I need to accept that my INFJ type is good for many things, but making money is not necessarily one of them and partnering with a money-maker is a better way to go. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m going to sit with that idea for awhile.

            I do have a husband and he makes twice as much as I do. So in terms of providing a happy, stable life for my kids it’s probably best that I focus on staying happily married rather than on being a high earner. But it’s so tempting to fall into the trap of equating my worth with how much money I bring in.

            Your latest homeschooling post also had some helpful insights about defining success at a given point in one’s life. Thank you for writing these posts and responding to the comments.

        • Carl says:

          Im an INFP and worked for a company for over 30 years, made pretty good $ the last 10 yrs also..:). Your comment was directed at your female readers I suspect. If someone has the INFP tendencies focus on learning to be analytical and balance the feeling (values) side. I worked with the M Briggs alot for 10 years with some professional leadership developers, don’t take it as cast in concrete, take it as an indicator.

          • Emily says:

            I’m an INFJ and this thread perfectly mirrors a conversation that has been going on in my head! The conversation starts with me feeling that I am a confident, capable, talented person who can add a lot of value to a project. But then, part of me asks, why can’t I earn even the holy grail of 40K per year?

            I’ve left multiple jobs because of values discrepancies that were just too big. I just could not support those organizations anymore. Now I am on a search for a genuine, authentic career. I wish that a reasonable amount of money would come along with that, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

            Any ideas for this struggling INFJ?

  15. Melissa says:

    Hi, I’m one of the weirdos who is here primarily for the career advice, please keep writing! I like hearing about your family and the rest of your life, but what makes your blog unique is your honest career advice. Don’t stop.

  16. Rachel says:

    Fascinating article linked above about autism and asperger’s in women.

    I, like other, love your frank workplace advice. Please keep that among possible topics for you blog!

  17. Patsy says:

    Sorry, I just could not get passed ‘we stay overnight in a hotel to get to cello lessons’. Wow, that is a big belief in cello in your son’s life. This is more fascinating than the rest of the post to me, why such a strong commitment? Music is music… surely no guitar teachers closer to home? Piano? But all credit to you, a Mummy medal coming your way.

    • thatgirl says:

      Anyone who says “music is music,” and believes one instrument is easily interchangeable with another doesn’t usually have music playing experience or desire to be a musician. You might have considered reading the columns Penelope’s written about her son and the cello to understand if there is a “why,” but with music, there’s no need for why.

      It’s like saying, “I know you like to paint, but painting is so equipment-dependent and inconvenient. You should draw–it’s just the same.”

  18. Dick says:

    here’s a trick if you don’t know left or right, squeeze your pointer and middle finger together on both hands….

    if you are like me you will have a callous on the middle finger of the hand you write with….

    you will quickly be able to figure out which is which…

    if someone is giving directions and you know them well enough that they won’t laugh at you for not knowing left and right, you can ask them to point the directions out…

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a great opportunity to teach everyone how to deal with the person who has Aspergers in your life.

      Surely, at my age, you must know that everyone has told me their tricks for left and right. Everyone’s tricks work because they understand the concept of left and right. I do not understand the concept.

      I don’t know if a truck is turning left how you know which way the truck will turn and how the trucker knows which way he will go when the wheel and his hands and the steering wheel are not all lined up going the same way. I do not understand how left and right remain constant, across places and time and people.

      (I also have trouble with up and down. I was an arbitrage clerk on the trading floor and I got fired because I could never tell, as the market was moving, if the numbers were going up or down. I can’t translate the numbers on the board on the wall on the room to moving up or down in space, to moving up or down in the stack of orders I’m holding.)

      So, this is all to tell you that when someone who has Aspergers is having a problem, there is probably not a quick fix. People with Aspergers are missing parts of their brain. It is just not working like yours. So stuff that is super easy for you makes no sense to someone with Aspergers.

      Penelope

  19. Michael Guidera says:

    Thanks Penelope for the excellent type-coach link. Please keep going with your finely written workplace advice – who else is sensible enough to tell us to go for jobs that are our type, and talk about our type weaknesses if asked.
    I also wondered if your storytelling could still be so strong without the workplace stuff?

  20. Suze says:

    This is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating interview questions and a majority of people give a disingenuous answer, so its almost pointless to ask it. Penelope you’re spot on with saying you’re not going to get hired for something you’re weak at. And you’re also most likely not trying to interview for something you’re weak in as well, because its not likely something you’re not interested in anyway. So really what is the harm in it? Its important to have an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and this article gives me a new perspective on viewing mine.

    • Tzipporah says:

      Suze, real weaknesses are not about skills, they’re about personality, and they apply anywhere. Sometimes you have to hang out in a workplace for a while to learn whether their culture is tolerable or not, because it’s not something you can assess based on industry or title.

  21. renee says:

    my 2 cents about shoes in public. people need to walk from their room to the buffet. most people are more comfortable for a variety of reasons to keep something between their feet/socks and the floor. They also probably come dressed and not in pj’s. putting shoes on is most likely part of the dressing sequence. so once dressed and shoes are on , off they go to the buffet for breakfast. Some people are more conscientious of their appearance and wont leave a room, even for breakfast , when they will be returning to their room , without full makeup and teeth brushed. There is something about shoes, though. ever watch the reaction of people when you ask them to remove their shoes when coming into a house?

  22. Jaime says:

    I only read your blog when you post about career advice (usually at the intersection of life advice). It’s a great resource and a gift to all of us. Keep it up!

  23. Amy B. says:

    I’m from Seattle and recently stayed at the Hampton Inn in Skokie – I agree that it is a delightful place and is certainly clean enough to be shoe-free for the buffet!

  24. Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel says:

    Many comments but I am procrastinating by reading your blog because it occurred to me I hadn’t seen a new post in awhile. I’ll keep it organized. #1 PLEASE continue to write about the intersection of life and career. I have found these posts to be very helpful. #2 Wear shoes in gross buffet restaurants. I beg of you. #3 When I interview people, I look for any reason not to hire them. How negative is that? So, you are right, wearing the wrong clothes, doing something bizarre qualifies. #4 INTJ usually. Work horse, good manager but doesn’t really care about the people, just their utility. Cor-rect. #5 Lots of free career advice in the comments. Very nice Penelope!

  25. Amy says:

    Socks are really probably OK for a hotel breakfast, unless it is like a 4-star hotel where you sit and a well-dressed person brings you fancy food and the napkins are not paper. But if it’s just you making cereal or even one of those make-it-yourself-waffles, you probably didn’t break any major rules. I’m a sock person myself. Now barefooted – that would be gross.

    • Sacha says:

      Barefoot might be less weird, especially if the hotel has a pool. I don’t look twice at someone walking around barefoot outside but shoeless with socks seems out of place.

  26. Martin says:

    About left and right:
    My wife also has some problems with that. She i dyslexic and I have notised the same in others who are dyslexic also. Anyway, when she makes a mistake like pointing someone to “the left” and it’s the wrong direction, she uses the frase from The Matrix(the sci-fi movie):

    “oh, I ment the other left”. And then people think she’s smart and funny.

  27. Jennifer says:

    So, for those of us who are out of step and know it … what’s wrong with us?

  28. Sacha says:

    Thanks for the link to https://type-coach.com! I was able to get my MBTI *free*, which is so rare. ENTJ, FYI.

  29. http://Angelesstyle.blogspot.com says:

    See if you can have your son take more responsibility for himself. I was over protected growing up and was not allowed to do a thing for myself. My mother gave me a bath until I was 12 I think. Not sure how old your son is but I had two sons 15 months apart and they started making their own toast for breakfast at age 2. They were raised to fend for themselves very early in life. If your son really wanted to play the cello he would have insisted that you stop and get him the one he needed for the lesson and he would have hounded you about it for days before his session…IMO

  30. Daniel Baskin says:

    It’s kind of depressing to re-realize that I’m in a job that really favors the attributes that my weaknesses are. I’ve done a lot to make the job work for me, and I’m really interested in my field.

    “The best answer to the question is when you tell a truthful answer, because it’s very unlikely you will be hired for the thing you are most weak at doing.”

    Best line ever regarding this question.

    Also, from your comment, “One of the hardest things about choosing a career is not figuring out what’s right for us, but accepting what’s right for us.”

    I really am a back-end programmer type. I might be able to incorporate my music interest into it with mixing, mastering, or programming music software. But really, I’m a programmer. I’m only just starting to learn languages, but I’m enjoying it. The education system sucks. Why was I never steered this direction until after tens of thousands of dollars of college debt?

  31. Jeff V says:

    Hi,

    This blog post definitely helped me learn a lot about myself and will help me answer that dreaded question.

    If I can be selfish for a moment: What are the business implications for a INTP? Outside of a crazy genius (like Einstein or Lincoln) or professions where you work mostly alone (scientist, computer programmer or engineer), I can not find any concrete example of regular business manager.

    Am I condemned to be the hardworking but kind of antisocial middlle-manager that tries way to hard at it at first and then hates his job when he realize he does not have a challenge anymore? This is eye opening to say the least…

    • Daniel Baskin says:

      As a fellow INTP struggling with this as well: Yes.

      Unless you can figure out a way to make your Ti and Ne (dominant introverted thinking with extroverted intuition) work to make you more successful in the job you are currently in than someone with the “right” MBTI letters, then yeah, you will benefit from finding a job that requires heavy and creative analysis projects, and doesn’t require much else. Or, at least a job that requires knowing and learning a lot of non-people-based knowledge.

  32. Mark W. says:

    Knowing your weakness and telling it truthfully in an interview is just the beginning. You also need to give examples (i.e. – stories which are not boring) and be comfortable talking about it. Just like you did in this post Penelope.

  33. jill says:

    I keep seeing people come to hotel breakfast buffets in their pajamas (including my sister-in-law and kids). At that point I would be grateful it was only shoes they were missing.

    I think it would be helpful to talk about the questions we are most likely to encounter in an interview so that I can plan my answers. The “weakness” question is one I need to plan. The “what do you bring us” is another.

    • Shoichi says:

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  34. another Lisa says:

    This post I think is one of my favorites. Also the black and white photo brings out your sons smile much more than the original color photo.

    There are tons of tricks to learn which hand is your right hand and which hand is your left and one or two of them probably work for you to some degree if the only thing you have to do is identify you right hand. All of those tricks though don’t address the theory of mind issue that comes with left and right. If you and I are facing each other and I tell you go left are we talking about my left or your left? So if you want to get better at left and right get better at theory of mind.

  35. Dawn Stanyon says:

    Penelope – I adore your work posts. Never stop. Your perspective is so important. I’m an “expert” at social interaction – I get paid to teach people this stuff (which I love), but what you bring to the table helps to increase my social awareness of others. Keep on keepin’ on! Dawn

  36. Sadya says:

    I couldn’t find anything on ESTPs on your blog. Is that good or bad?
    Thanks for the link, its the 1st time i gave the MBTI a shot.

  37. Piotr Kundu says:

    A strenght is a strength if it can be applied at work and a weakness that doesn’t affect you work is no weakness. It’s like saying “I suck at plumbing”, while looking for a sales job.

  38. Jeremy Norton says:

    I learned a lot. I’ll share this with my daughter,

  39. Rachel says:

    This post and subsequent comments made me simultaneously so depressed and so upset that I willed myself for 24 hours to refrain from commenting. And then I decided that if I had to choose, I would take proximity to people over proximity to cash. That made me feel okay. And overall and after-all, it is an encouraging post.

  40. Chris says:

    Superb article… Hope it would help a lot to guys who are very weak in communication skills

  41. Austin says:

    Penelope,
    I was thinking about posting on this same topic, only specified for people with disabilities. What do you think about disabled people citing their disability as a weakness, then detailing how they have overcome it. Would that make the interviewer too uncomfortable?

  42. Tara says:

    I teach business writing, and I also do some freelancing related to social media and blogging. I always hold your blog up as an example of how you can talk about anything (and should talk about your personal life) but you should also know your market and your goals, bringing whatever you’re talking about back to those goals. So, you can tell us about cellos (and I want you, too), but I would be confused if you didn’t bring it back to workplace/career talk.

    Also, in your home, no one drops eggs and leaves them on the floor, or if they do, you know who did it (again, lowering the chances that someone would leave them on the floor). In a hotel, people don’t clean up their eggs if they drop them. They expect the staff to do it. So, the rest of us wear shoes, because we do not want to step in eggs.

    And sometimes, we aren’t sure if we might go out to the car for something before we go back up to the room. Shoes give us options.

    • Tara says:

      The problem with saying you teach business writing is that you inevitably make a typo or two. I’m most ashamed of what should be *(and I want you to)

      *sigh*

  43. Christina says:

    Thank you for giving extra insight into ENFJ’s in the comments!

    I do care about the people that I manage but don’t necessarily feel that I am good at managing them – perhaps that comes with time and experience?

  44. Dotty says:

    Aspergers is a label they came up only recently because they felt the need to label. My son was not labeled 24 years ago, back when, when we could get state support and education for his disabilities. In a job interview now however, his quirkiness and linear thinking doesn’t bode well and “training” him on how to answer such a question would not work. The fact is more and more children are low spectrum autistic now, so it is a societal (not individual) problem which will need to be adjusted and accommodated going forward.

  45. Faye Fossay says:

    Love your blog Penelope and your perspective on life as a farmwife! I look forward to following your posts go-forward! Your work is inspiring! :)

  46. Tzipporah says:

    Thanks for the tip of using your personality profile to talk about your weaknesses. Any tips on discussing INTJ weaknesses re: not respecting hierarchies that won’t make me sound like a jerk to the person in authority asking the question?

  47. Mike says:

    Wonderful article. I can relate. ~m

  48. PJS says:

    You said that people don’t like your workplace posts, so I just wanted to submit my vote for MORE workplace posts!

    I’ve been reading your blog for about 3 years and have enjoyed the progression it has gone through. But what I love most is your career advice! I just landed my dream job 3 months ago and I owe a lot of my interview skills / quitting a job after 2 weeks skills / not going to grad school skills / workplace behavior to you!!

    Thanks for everything!

  49. emily says:

    This is great advice for someone a few years into their career, but it’s very difficult for someone new to a career. Right out school you’re expected to still be a generalist, and calling out a weakness like “no attention to detail” can pigeon-hole you into a certain kind of job too soon, when you should be learning broad skills.
    I’ve had job interviews in the past where I very honestly respond to the weaknesses question with what I see as the strongest reason the person wouldn’t hire me, including “my biggest weakness is that I’m brand new to this role and have never done anything that directly proves my ability to do it. You’re taking a risk with me.” Or another time for a job across the country, I said, “My biggest weakness from your perspective is that you don’t know if I’m serious about moving 3,000 miles to take this job.” People appreciate when you voice what’s already on their mind, and then it becomes an opportunity to convince them of why they don’t need to worry about that flaw.

5 Pings/Trackbacks for "Interview tip: How to talk about your weakness"
  1. Interview tip: How to talk about your weakness | Penelope Trunk Blog | says:

    [...] on blog.penelopetrunk.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestRedditStumbleUponTumblrEmailPrintGoogle +1Like [...]

  2. What I'm Into (November 2012 Edition) says:

    [...] I’m a little obsessed with discussions about personality, so I was completely drawn in by Penelope Trunk’s post on how to talk about your weakness. [...]

  3. Career Blogs I Actually Read | The Day Job says:

    [...] about her life. Often, her personal stories become vessels for worthwhile career advice (see “Interview Tip: How To Talk About Your Weakness“). Other times, they are a medium for her to convey her strong, controversial opinions. [...]

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    [...] first step to dealing with your weaknesses is learning what they are and how to talk about them.  Penelope Trunk talks about how to do [...]

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    [...] 3. They talk about their weaknesses. Not in a stupid way, like, “I wish I could not be so perfect.” But in a real way, because every strength comes with weaknesses and we’re not good at everything. Overachievers know they aren’t being hired for their weakness, so they let people know that they see themselves clearly by talking about weaknesses. [...]

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