Interviewers use open-ended questions in an effort to find out more about you than just the basic skills you bring to the workforce. They want to get a glimpse of your personality and see how you react under pressure. A recruiter may plan interruptions, for example, and watch how you recover when she returns. Interviewers need to ultimately decide whether you’ll be a good fit for the company. One question commonly asked to gauge your honesty level is “what are your weaknesses?”
Weak But Working On It
Approach the weakness questions with answers that don’t leave a completely negative tone on the table. Everyone has weaknesses, but it’s the honest and strong woman who admits her weaknesses and is taking action to change. If you’re a poor speller, it’s perfectly all right to admit to that, especially if writing is not a big part of the job. Follow up your answer with solutions to the spelling deficiency. Talk about the continuing education classes you’re taking to improve your writing or refer to the dictionary program apps that you keep on the forefront of all your mobile devices and that sit on the top of your favorites list on your computer.
If, on the other hand, you’re applying for a job as a proofreader or editor, the fact that you have trouble with spelling will definitely be a deal-breaker. Only talk about weaknesses that won’t interfere with your ability to do the job. Inconsequential weaknesses are ideal. So for the writer who leans heavily on spell-check and the dictionary, it might be better to talk about how you have a tendency to act impulsively, but that you understand the necessity of taking your time when making important decisions.
Put a Positive Spin On It
Frame your answer to the weakness question in a positive light and stress that it doesn’t happen all the time, but occasionally you misspell words when you’re hurried or distracted. For example, “I know the importance of presenting the company in the most favorable light when writing emails, letters and other copy for the public to see and so I’m very conscious of my tendency to misspell certain words.” Close by saying you know your weakness and therefore scrutinize everything you write and double-check your writing when in doubt. Talk about how you always rely on another person to check your writing before going public with it.
Since you know this is a common interview question, prepare your answers carefully. Rehearse your response about being a poor speller so it doesn’t sound canned. One tactic is to wait a few seconds before responding to give the impression you’re thinking about an answer, then go into your rehearsed response. Interviewers want to believe they are getting honest, truthful responses from candidates. If your answers sound canned and rehearsed, you may plant seeds of doubt about your honesty.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."