You’re going to hear some pretty standard interview questions in most every kind of industry. Most interviewers ask open-ended questions so they can get to know you better in addition to seeing your qualifications on your resume. Most ask you to tell them about yourself. Another common question is to tell the interviewer what your weaknesses are. You don’t want to tell them you are lazy and have a hard time getting to work on time, but you can frame answers in a way that won't kill your chances of landing the job.
The most important aspect of answering the weakness question is to put a positive spin on your response. If you tell the recruiter that procrastination is one of your biggest challenges then add that you have been working on it by creating a list of daily goals and checking off tasks as you complete them. Refer to your new PDA and its calendar with reminders that ding you when a deadline looms. Talk about the progress you’ve made in overcoming your procrastination with the tools you’ve incorporated.
Recruiters are accustomed to many of the stock answers that interviewees use for this question and often don’t believe them. “I’m a perfectionist and can’t stop until I get something right,” is overused and could make you look dishonest. Instead, stick to the truth that you are a procrastinator, but offer up some of the positive points of the defect. Talk about how busy you get with other tasks that while you may end up putting off one duty, you end finishing a ton of other jobs while you’re avoiding one. By procrastinating on one task, you end up being more productive in the long run.
Tell the recruiter that while you tend to procrastinate on certain projects, you eventually become energized by the pressure that comes with a looming deadline. You may want to ease the interviewer’s fears by saying you recognize the issue and are working on it, but one thing is for sure, you may put off various duties, but you always get them done in the end. Explain that you work best under deadlines, but you don’t worry when you put things off, because you know yourself well enough to confidently say you’ll complete your assignments.
Business is often full of go-getters and type-A personalities who get an idea, rush it through and push it to completion – only to find they may have leaped before looking. (ref 4) Mention your procrastination, but add that your weakness often benefits both you and your employer. Sometimes waiting is the best path to take and a procrastinator may end up saving the company a lot of money if the job would have led to negative consequences. For example, if you work in the financial industry, putting off an investment purchase for a few days may end up saving you money because the stock tanks. As long as you present your procrastination in a positive light – call it “pacing yourself” and “pondering all the possibilities before you act ” -- your weakness may become a valuable asset to your new employer.
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."