The most insidious job interview question

most insidious job interview question

There are many different kinds of job interview questions. Some are straightforward inquiries about your past work experience, and others test your self-awareness or communication skills. Some questions are about your personality, while others are a test of your problem-solving abilities.

The dreaded “What is your greatest weakness?” question feels like a trap. Obviously, in a situation where you are trying to impress someone and make a positive impression, you don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about stuff you aren’t good at.

I recently heard a worse question. At first hearing, it seemed similar to being asked about a weakness, but it is much worse when you think about it.

The most insidious job interview question was, “What is one thing you will never be good at?

This is a challenging question because the formula for the weakness question doesn’t work. Usually, you should name a weakness that is not crucial to the job and explain how you have struggled with it and the steps you are taking to overcome it. So, you are self-aware, honest about your limitations, and actively trying to improve. This way, even talking about a weakness still reveals positive things about you.

However, something that you will never be good at means no improvement, and you’ve given up. It can be an extremely challenging question, especially if you hadn’t thought about it in advance.

First and foremost, do not name an activity that is related to the job you are applying for. If there is a skill needed for the role and you know that you will never be good at it, what are you doing there in the first place?

Secondly, do not name a skill that can be learned through hard work and dedicated effort. If something can be learned by someone willing to put the time in, and you’ve decided that you’ll never be good at it, then it’s a lack of ambition or perseverance that’s holding you back. That’s not something that impresses employers.

At the job interview, your mission is to communicate to the hiring manager that you are the right person for the job. You have the right skills, personality, and motivation to outperform any other potential candidates for the role.

The “one thing you will never be good at” query is about your personality. If the employer thought that you would never be good at something relevant to the job, they wouldn’t bother interviewing you in the first place.

So, tell a personal anecdote. Something relatable. Self-deprecating, even. For example:

“I love music. I have many talented musician friends, and I tried to put a band together in high school. I took guitar lessons, but I have no ear for music at all. I can’t hold a note or carry a tune. Worse, I can’t even hear when I’m off the tune. But everybody else stares at me. I had to accept that I would never be a rock star.”

It can be an art form, a sport you lack the physical talent for or an activity in which you can’t generate interest.

“I spent one summer trying to grow a vegetable garden, but the rabbits and squirrels ate everything before it was ripe enough to pick, and the weeds took over. I realized it was a lot of effort for not much reward. I can get fruits and vegetables from the corner store without frustration. They say gardening is a Zen activity, very relaxing, but it wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t make a great farmer.”

This demonstrates that you are self-aware, try new things, and accept your limitations. You can communicate a relatable story, and a challenging question doesn’t stump you.

See also:
How to answer “why are you looking for a new job?”
How to answer “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

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