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Procrastinating as a Weakness for a Job Interview

by Neil Kokemuller

The weakness question is one of the most common and traditional in an interview. Career Strategies, Inc. President Priscilla Claman called it the worst question in a January 2011 "Harvard Business Review" article because it puts job seekers on the spot and does little more than test your tolerance for embarrassment or personal humiliation. Still, it is an often asked question and adequate preparation is essential for a masterful response. Procrastination may be a genuine response, but not necessarily your best option.

Being Genuine

Presenting a genuine weakness is typically better than indicating you have no weaknesses or giving an obviously scripted answer that avoids any display of humanity. If procrastination is an honest weakness, stating this is certainly likely to help you come across as genuine. One of the key questions an interviewer asks himself is whether he likes the person he's interviewing. Your job is to show that you're likable, and have the ability to acknowledge mistakes and grow from them. You might say "I've struggled with procrastination in some cases with projects that are less desirable. However, I've worked to improve my timeliness by using effective personal scheduling programs."

Know the Culture

Before using procrastination as a weakness, research the company and its culture. The availability of online information is so great as of 2013, you have no reason not to do your homework. If a company culture seems to include emphasis on goals, deadlines and efficiency, your procrastination would likely alarm a hiring manager. However, in a highly creative culture with a more flexible structure and schedule your procrastination weakness might fit right in.

Get Narrow

The more narrow your weakness the better, bearing in mind its importance to a position. The word "procrastination" carries a negative connotation. Some managers might equate it to laziness or poor discipline. Thus, it might be better to say something like "I tend to get caught up in the creative process and can sometimes get pressured by deadlines." While you have essentially explained an example of procrastinating behavior, you avoided the word itself and emphasized your creative strengths. This response might play especially well in the creative culture, such as at an ad agency or design firm.

Other Strategies

While you want to present a genuine response, you can provide less potentially problematic qualities than procrastination. A good starting point is to compare your strengths and weaknesses to the list of qualities for the position before the interview. Find a relatively small-scale weakness that isn't required for the job. For an analytical accounting position that requires strong detail-orientation and precision, you might say "I sometimes work very deliberately because I focus a lot on detail stuff." This example includes a sincere weakness, "slow work," presented in a more positive light, and supported by a contrasting strength of detail-orientation.

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