This question originally appeared on Quora by Ambra Benjamin, engineering recruiter at Facebook.
I’ll begin by saying: This is a terrible interview question, but it is one you will be asked during your career, so it’s best to be prepared with some type of response. For starters, absolutely do not humblebrag when asked this question. It is incredibly trite. As ubiquitous as the interview question may be, imagine how many times an interviewer has heard the following answer, “I can be too much of a perfectionist.” Even just typing that, I almost threw up in my mouth a little bit. A close runner-up in the “humblebrag about my weakness” category is, “I take on too much responsibility and don’t delegate.”
I want to make it clear that not delegating and being a perfectionist are absolutely real weaknesses. Failure to delegate can lead to balls being dropped and inability to prioritize tasks or be a team player. Perfectionism can be debilitating and cause severe procrastination. But neither of these are answers you should give when discussing your weaknesses, and here’s why: You must always start from the end goal when assessing your answer to an interview question. The interviewer is asking you this question to gain valuable signals about your self-awareness.
Understanding your gaps is important, and an employee who doesn’t know his or her own weaknesses is a walking liability. So when it comes to weakness, there is nothing that displays a greater lack of self-awareness than humblebragging. Maybe perfectionism is your real top weakness. Skip it. Go to your second top weakness, or even your third. This should be easy. Personally, I have an entire list of areas I can improve on. Show the interviewers that you realize what they’re getting at, and give them the answer that allows them to get appropriate signals. If you can’t rattle off some gaps in a matter of moments, what exactly are you working on to improve yourself?
Everyone has flaws—some we’re aware of, and others are blind spots. I sometimes wish candidates would get over the fear of looking bad, and instead share a true weakness in an interview with confidence. Be a little vulnerable. No one’s asking you to admit that you can never deliver projects on time. That might cost you the job. But knowing your strengths and weaknesses shows that you’re self-aware, and you are developing yourself as an employee or expert in your field.
When people use this question to insert a humblebrag, I find it very inauthentic. Afraid it could backfire and be used against you after the interview? Frankly, I’d be very wary about working for any employer that didn’t offer me the job because I candidly shared one of my weaknesses. I’m not sure that’s a job I’d really want.