Q: At the interview table, should one talk about their personal weaknesses, or should they keep things strictly professional? And will I be asked to take up extra assignments if I say that I am comfortable working late and during the weekends? How much of my personal information should I reveal?
It’s always good to be truthful during the interview process. However, don’t give out too much unnecessary information, especially the kind that might jeopardise your chances of getting the job. Only share information that gives you competitive advantage over other candidates. When candidates are asked about personal weaknesses, they immediately get defensive. Perhaps recruiters should instead seek to know their employees’ challenges, or their proposed areas for development.
You won’t sound authentic if you said that you don’t have any weaknesses, however, don’t shock the interview panel by revealing questionable details about your character, or by making unprofessional comments such as: “I’m a short-tempered slave driver,” just to come across as a super-efficient person.
There are challenges that are viewed as modest and acceptable. For instance, I am a stickler for deadlines, I can be impatient with slow learners, and I struggle to delegate important assignments. This question calls on you to articulate your professional gaps, and explain how you propose to make amends. Therefore, it is important to show that you know your weaknesses, and that you are willing to improve.
Most employers focus on productivity, not the number of hours one puts in. However, sometimes you may be required to work beyond ordinary working hours, or on weekends. Any employee needs to be prepared to do that once in a while. If this question is raised during the interview, state that you would be available when it is absolutely necessary. Don’t make unreasonable compromises just to please your potential employer, otherwise it might look like you don’t have a social life.
On personal issues, only reveal what is required. If you feel the inquiry is too intrusive, you may politely decline to disclose. Should you progress beyond the interview stage, there is some personal information you may have to declare to access some benefits such as medical cover. When that time comes, maintain professionalism. Discussing the offer is also part of the recruitment process. If you have to decline, do so in a way that does not offend the potential employer. You never know when you might go knocking on his door again.
Jane Muiruri - Senior HR Manager, Nation Media Group