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Ask the RecruiterIn most interviews, at some point you will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses.  I am comfortable with the first, but not the latter.  I do not want to diminish myself against other candidates by being honest.  What to do?

There are two schools of thought:

  • My colleague, outplacement guru Nancy Swain, advises her clients to avoid negativity.  She recommends an answer that is honest, but not damaging.  For example, “As the population changes, and as we begin to focus more on population health management, I think I can be a better leader if I learned to speak Spanish.”

Of course if you get the job, there is probably going to be an expectation that you become proficient in Spanish.

  • As a recruiter, I am looking for authenticity.  While Ms. Swain’s approach is a good option, I am always more impressed with candidates who have put some thought into their answer.  One candidate, earlier in my search career, disclosed that he had asked his references what they thought his weaknesses were — those things about which he could improve.  He took the information from two or three and flipped it into a thoughtful, positive answer.

This is one of those questions you know you will get, so not having a great answer is no excuse.

I work too much is beyond lame.  I laughed when a candidate, someone I had known for years, ran it up the flagpole when I asked.

I don’t recommend you use this one.