So you’ve done your due diligence and prepared answers to the most common interview questions — including the dreaded, “What’s your greatest weakness?”
Perhaps you’ve crafted an artful response that reframes your flaw as something positive: “I’m such a perfectionist that I drive myself crazy.”
Unfortunately, this revelation is hardly what an interviewer wants to hear. New research suggests that “humblebragging” — a.k.a. boasting concealed by a complaint — is actually a turn-off.
In one experiment, researchers at Harvard Business School asked college students to write down how they’d answer a question about their biggest weakness in a job interview. Participants also wrote down why they would answer the question that way.
Afterward, research assistants reviewed all the responses and decided: how humblebrag-y they were, whether the participants were being honest, and how much they would want to hire the person who answered that way.
As it turns out, more than three-quarters of participants humblebragged. The most common humblebrags included being a perfectionist, working too hard, being too nice, and being too honest.
Moreover, the research assistants determined that the majority of people were being strategic about getting the hypothetical job (instead of honest) when they revealed their “weakness.”
Perhaps most importantly, the research assistants indicated that they would be much less likely to hire the humblebraggers than those who seemed earnest.
So how exactly did the honest people answer the question? Responses included: “I’m not always the best at staying organised,” and “Sometimes I overreact to situations.”
Of course, these findings don’t imply that you should expound on the time you went berserk on a coworker because he turned in a project late. But a candidate who can show that she’s self-aware and that she’s working on improving her performance is probably the kind of person most interviewers want to hire.
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