Career column

Accepting your weaknesses can be a strength

Q: This is something which has been bothering me for some time. There are some areas of my work – I am in IT – where I do not have a great deal of experience. As you can appreciate, IT is a very broad area, and it is always likely that a candidate would have a deficiency in some areas. But my query is: how do you recommend I should deal with this shortcoming in my experience when it arises in interview?

A: This is a more common scenario than you might realise – very few people have the full A-Z on every job. We recommend an approach whereby you accept your shortcoming, because it is not good to try to bluff your way.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the approach we recommend.

Accept the shortcoming, perhaps even volunteer it before the interviewers uncover it and somehow get the impression you were trying to hide it from view. Say something like, “of all the competencies I have, this is probably one area where I need to improve – but I am confident I can do just that…” That way, you get the ‘lowest’ point of the answer out of the way at the outset. You can now build the answer from here, so that it finishes on a positive.

To build from here, you can communicate the following (where applicable to your case ):

The best available example of your carrying out or studying this function – “while I may not have worked in this particular area before, it did form a major part of my final year project in college, which I think will help me get up to speed quickly in this role.” Here, draw from your education, training, or work in other sectors – anything that puts you in this particular zone, however slightly.

Passion – demonstrate a passion to improve this shortcoming – “I look forward to the opportunity to build my skills in this area”.

Exposure – show how you have been exposed to this area of work in the past, if you have – “while I have not done a great deal of work in this particular area before, I have been exposed to it my previous employment.”

Knowledge of why it is important – “I appreciate very much the importance of this skill, I can see why it is a top priority for you” – employers like to see and hear you showing an understanding of their needs.

Previous examples where you overcame shortcomings – “when I started in my last job, I knew very little about ABC skill, but I committed myself to learning it, with the result that I became extremely competent at it and was soon able to carry out that function without any difficulty.”

Thus you do the best you can with that answer. Bear in mind that the winning candidate rarely comes out on top of the pile in every aspect of the job. When you take on a new job, you often have to learn new stuff, so do not feel too bad if you are weak in one area – and always remember the value of showing enthusiasm to learn.

“Hire for attitude, train for skill’ is becoming more and more popular as a maxim for employers.

This week’s top tip

Let them ‘see’ you in the job. Where appropriate, and without sounding arrogant, tell interviewers how you ‘will’ carry out a certain function in the role, rather than ‘would’. It is a subtle shift of tense, but it can be powerful.

Thus you can paint pictures of you actually doing the job.

“If you hire me, I will certainly help your sales in that region,” or, “I will become fully involved in extra-curricular and after-school activities here in this school,” and so on.

Be graphic in how you describe yourself doing the job.

Slí Nua Careers (Watson’s Lane, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo ), phone 094 95 42965, www.SliNuaCareers.com, helps candidates get jobs by carrying out professional CV preparation (face-to-face and online ) and interview training (face-to-face and via Skype/video link-up ).

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