If You 'Humblebrag' During the Interview, You Could Be Hurting Your Odds Of Being Hired

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April 16, 2024 at 2:7PM UTC
Nailing the balance between professionalism and authenticity in a job interview is tricky. On the one hand, you want to make a strong case for your achievements and value, leaving the hiring manager with no doubt as to why they should hire you (without sounding cocky). On the other, you want to be yourself, too, especially in a world that increasingly advocates for bringing your full self to work. 
Nowhere, perhaps, is this balance harder to strike than in the dreaded "what are your weaknesses?" interview question. In an effort to sound relatable without sacrificing professional image points, many job seekers attempt to navigate this question by performing a form of communication acrobatics. Your greatest weakness, you may hear yourself saying, is that you work too hard, or that (even worse) you're "too much of a perfectionist." 
It's a common pattern known as "humblebragging" — or, in this scenario, presenting personality traits that are strengths in the context of a supposed weakness. And it could be costing you the job, according to research from Harvard. 
While it's understandable to feel the need to safeguard your weaknesses from a hiring manager at all costs, research from Harvard Business School found that candidates who veer toward actual authenticity over canned responses are perceived better by their interviewers. In the study, college students were asked to answer "what are your weaknesses?" — and more than three-quarters of responses included a humblebrag. Independent research assistants, however, indicated they’d be likelier to hire the participants who gave honest responses, which included things like "I struggle with staying organized" or "sometimes I overreact."
So, let the research show — stay away from interview clichés if you want the job, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to broadcast your weaknesses.

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