You Think These 5 Interview Phrases Sound Good, But They're Actually Red Flags to Hiring Managers

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April 14, 2024 at 4:35AM UTC
There is one dreaded question that trips almost every unprepared interviewee up: “What is your greatest weakness?”
There are a few ways you can tackle your response to this question; but there are also specific responses that should be avoided at all costs.
Truthfully, no one likes to admit their weaknesses, especially in front of a potential employer. We have been taught to portray ourselves as highly skilled, motivated, and in the most favorable light possible. Admitting we have flaws is a quick way to ruin everything we are trying to display. Because of this goal, coaches have taught their students to turn every negative into a positive. 
A typical response to this question is, “I’m a perfectionist.” The implication of this response suggests that your biggest weakness is actually a strength.
But, in reality, this is a cliche response that tells your interviewer absolutely nothing. Everyone has weaknesses, and those who are more willing to be honest about them are the type of people recruiters want to hire.
If being a perfectionist really is your greatest weakness, science shows that perfectionism is not a strength worth bragging about. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, studies indicate that perfectionists have higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout. 
In other words, if someone asks, “what’s your greatest weakness,” you may be telling them that you have high levels of stress, anxiety and are at a higher risk of burnout. 
Perfectionism doesn’t have such a nice ring to it when you put it that way.

6 other responses to avoid at all costs

Outside of the dreaded ‘weakness’ question, there are several other interview responses you should avoid, regardless of the initiating question:

1. “I don’t have any weaknesses”

Another terrible response to the question about weaknesses is the flat-out lie that you don’t have any.
This is a quick way to eliminate yourself from the process.

2. “I don’t know”

If you really don’t know the answer to a question, you should at least show you know where you can find the answer.
For instance, if you don’t know the proper way to complete a task, you would indicate you would seek guidance from your peers and company policies to find the answer before approaching your supervisor for assistance.

3. “I need a job”

Some employers will ask candidates why they want to work for the company. A candid and straightforward answer such as, “I need a job,” may sound great in your head, but to the recruiter, it says you’re desperate.

4. “I’m passionate about this company”

This is a usual response to an interviewer asking why you should be hired.
They get that you’re passionate, but how does that make you stand out from the others? Be descriptive and emphasize your strengths and what would make you successful.

5. “I like working with people”

What does this even mean? Are you suggesting everyone else hates working with people? This cliche answer doesn’t mean anything to the person across the table.

6. “This is my dream job”

While this statement may be flattering for the company, it doesn’t tell the recruiter why you may or may not be the dream employee for the company. 

How to give the best answers

Personal experiences buttress even the best answers. Answer each question with transparency  and a sense of purpose, based on your previous life history and skill set. 
Rather than relying on a quick internet search for the best responses to some of the most common answers, come up with a way to answer questions that tell the interviewer you are genuine, hard-working, and the best candidate for the job (without actually explicitly saying it).
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This article originally appeared on Ladders

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