Acknowledging flaws can help your job search

May 19, 2010 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

It’s the perennial question in a job interview: What are your weaknesses? And most job applicants have carefully considered a clever comeback: “I work too hard.” Or, “I care too much — I just can’t seem to let go of a project.” Or “I just try to do everything.” Yet interviewers have heard these answers — or versions of them — many, many times before. What, instead, if you were honest and admitted to flaws?

Hiring experts say you may be surprised that by actually owning up to some weaknesses you could help your job hunt. First, your honesty may be refreshing to a hiring manager, as most are looking for real human beings with real human frailties, not robots that can be programmed. And also, you would providing them with important information about how you actually performed in the past, which can aid them in making a decision. This likely will give you points with a hiring manager.

Of course, you don’t want to needlessly paint yourself in a bad light so you need to carefully prepare how you will acknowledge flaws in an interview or other hiring situation. Here are a few tips:

*Be honest with yourself. Many job hunters decide to go after jobs based on what’s available and what pays well in their targeted job-search area rather than on what they’re really qualified to do, or good at doing. Take stock before you start applying for jobs. Determine your actual abilities and strengths, and your weaknesses. Then go after jobs that take advantage of those — in that case, acknowledging your weaknesses won’t be such a big deal as they shouldn’t be key to the job you’re seeking. By contrast, if you’re going for a stretch position you’re unlikely to get, or downplaying your skills by seeking a job for which you’re clearly overqualified, you’re going to run into problems with being honest about your flaws.

*Acknowledge situations in which you’ve made mistakes, and then say what you learned from these. We’ve all made mistakes. So when asked the “what are your weaknesses” question or a variation of it in an interview, give an example of a situation you could have handled better, and how you’ve worked to do so since then. Again, the hiring manager will likely appreciate your honesty. And by showing what you’ve learned from this, you can showcase some strengths — including your ability to learn from your errors. For instance, if you’re a reporter who suffers from that all-too-common problem of putting off writing a story to make just one more reporting phone call, you might say: “I have a tendency to over-report a story. Earlier in my career, I’d make just one or two more phone calls, and then I wouldn’t have enough time to write and polish the story on deadline. Now, I try to map out how long my reporting likely will take me and how long writing the story will take as well, and knowing my weakness, I work to set aside enough time for writing.” In this case, you’ve acknowledged a weakness but also shown how you’ve accommodated it in your work life, and demonstrated a tendency toward self-reflection, organization and dedication to your craft. Much better then, “I can’t seem to give up on a project.”

*Don’t hide a problem but try to explain it. If you have a weakness in your resume or experience — or a problem in your past work life — it’s best to bring it up with a good explanation rather than to let the hiring manager figure it out later on their own and have to confront you with it. Such issues as having a gap in your resume, leaving a job after a short period, having a personality conflict with a boss that led to you leaving a position or other problems do not make you unqualified for a current opening. But such an issue could complicate your candidacy. By owning up to it and explaining it — “I left that position after only nine months because I realized it wasn’t a good fit for my skills; I’ve learned to research openings better now” — you take some of the sting out of the situation. And the hiring manager may be impressed by your forthright approach, perhaps figuring that you would likely be straightforward and honest in the workplace.

*Avoid TMI (too much information). Yes, it’s good to acknowledge weaknesses with a straightforward explanation. But no one wants to hear you go on and on. The interviewer’s office is not a confessional. Prepare carefully and don’t give speeches — admit the flaw and move on in the interview.

*The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has set up a nationwide directory of freelancers — listing more than 1,000 SPJ members who value the tenets of responsible journalism. It’s a great database for those looking for freelancers– you can search by state or specialty or view the whole list of candidates. And it’s obviously a great way for freelancers — including those looking to do some freelance work while job hunting — to find a wider audience for their work.  Check it out at SPJ’s Freelancer Directory.

And for more information about the Freelancer Directory and the freelancer blog, please contact SPJ Freelance Committee Chairwoman Amy Green at

*Here’s a batch of fresh leads to check out today, with an emphasis on federal jobs:

*For those with an audio/visual (or broadcast) background looking to transition to a federal government job, this could be a good opportunity. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau in the Department of Homeland Security in D.C. has an opening for an audio visual production specialist/editor:

Audio Visual Production Specialist (Editor)
Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau – Washington, DC
relations and employee communications including exhibits and those disseminated electronically; conducting and coordinating communications and public affairs… $89,033 – $115,742 a year

*Here’s another federal-related position; Deloitte in D.C. has an opening for a (federal) internal communications analyst:

Internal Communications Analyst – Federal
Deloitte – Washington, DC
Communications Analyst’s ability to manage and coordinate a number of complex internal communications… industry communications Email communications Surveys…
From Deloitte

*The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Commerce Department has a position open in Silver Spring for a writer/editor:

Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Silver Spring, MD
of Commerce directives on Controlled Correspondence, briefing materials and all communications to external constituents including Congress and the White House… $89,033 – $136,771 a year

*Mission Essential Personnel is hiring for a proposal coordinator/editor in Chantilly:

Proposal Coordinator / Editor
Mission Essential Personnel – Chantilly, VA
Bachelor’s degree in communications or other relevant area and 4 to 6 years RFP response experience as coordinator, editor or contributing writer. Advanced…
From Mission Essential Personnel

*For those looking to transition into a public policy role, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in D.C. has an opening for a public policy officer:

Public Policy Officer
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation – Washington, DC
and leadership. Collaborate closely with Communications team on e-advocacy work related to the domestic… oral and written communications skills Ability to…
From The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

*Arnold & Porter, a law firm in D.C., is looking for a document review specialist:

Document Review Specialist
Arnold & Porter – Washington, DC
knowledge of scanning equipment. Demonstration of strong oral and written communication skills as well as strong organizational skills. Ability to interact…
From Arnold & Porter

*And if you know of a student still looking for that last-minute summer internship opportunity, pass this along; the American Cancer Society in D.C. is looking for a summer intern for its public policy team:
American Cancer Society – Washington, DC
student in good standing enrolled in an accredited graduate degree program with health policy background. Excellent research, writing and communication skills.
From American Cancer Society

*And last but not least, a journalism opportunity — U.S. News in D.C. is seeking an editor:

U.S. News is looking for a full-time, 5 days a week editor at its Georgetown office.  If interested, contact Margi Mannix, executive editor, at 202-955-2400 or

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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