What to do when your honest answer to a job-interview question may cost you the job
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickr
Imagine you're in the hot seat. Things are going well. You've answered every interview question with ease and you're feeling good.
But then the hiring manager asks you something like, "How do how you deal with boredom at work?"
The thing is, dealing with boredom is actually one of your greatest struggles.
You want to be honest, but you can't just come out and say, "Funny you ask. I don't deal with it well at all. In fact, this is one of my greatest weaknesses. When I'm bored at work I usually just scan Facebook for hours or play games on my cell phone."
Doing so might seriously hurt your chances.
So, how do you go about answering a question to which your honest response might cost you the job … without lying?
You've got two options.
Focus on something positive without completely dodging the question
Don't fib or dodge the question completely (doing either of these things will raise red flags!). Instead, acknowledge the question but then focus your response on something similar, but slightly different.
For instance, in the case of the boredom question, you could try something like: "Well, luckily I rarely find myself bored at work — but I can tell you how I deal with especially busy days, which I experience all the time. I consider time management and prioritization to be two of my greatest strengths. I've mastered both by [doing X, Y, Z]."
As long as all of the above is true, it's a good answer because you use the word "boredom" in your response, so the hiring manager won't feel like your dodging it — but you're getting around having to say this is a weakness of yours, or explaining how you (poorly) deal with the rare instances of boredom you experience at work.
Instead, you're able to focus on positive traits and skills.
Be honest, then talk about what you're doing to fix the problem
If the first approach doesn't work (and sometimes it won't), you'll have to be a little more direct.
If and when the hiring manager presses and asks again, just be honest — but focus on the things you've been doing (or plan to do) to improve how to you deal with this weakness or negative trait.
In this instance, you can say something like, "Well, dealing with boredom hasn't always been a strength of mine, but luckily I recognized that this is an area in which I could improve and decided to do something about it. A few months ago I started doing X, Y, and Z and I've already noticed a huge difference!"
The hiring manager will likely appreciate your honesty, your ability to recognize your own weaknesses, and your willingness to work on them.