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Interview questions: Show vulnerability and admit your weaknesses



Traci Wilk
“To me there’s nothing
more important than self-awareness,” said Traci Wilk,

Courtesy of Traci

  • Asking some interview
    about how you’ll fare at the company, given your
    relative strengths and weaknesses, can be helpful.
  • That’s according to Traci Wilk, senior vice president
    of people at The Learning Experience and a former HR exec at
  • A recent job candidate asked Wilks about the challenges
    facing them on the job, knowing they don’t have experience in
    that specific field.
  • Wilk said it simultaneously showed vulnerability and
    confidence, two valuable traits in an employee.

A job interview is a chance to flaunt your skills, your
professional accomplishments, and generally just how great you

But Traci Wilk wants to see something more.

Wilk is the senior vice president of people at The Learning
, an early education and childcare franchise. She
has also led human resources departments at Starbucks, Coach, and
rag & bone.

Wilk told Business Insider about a recent job interview she
conducted for The Learning Experience in which the candidate was
unusually forthcoming — and it worked to the candidate’s

The candidate didn’t have experience working in a franchise or in
the childcare industry. So she asked Wilk, “Knowing that I don’t
have the experience in this type of industry or this type of
business, but I bring all these other types of skill sets to the
table, what do you think my major challenges will be in getting
immersed into the company, should I get the job?”

Wilk was pleasantly surprised. “It showed a high degree of
vulnerability to say that there were some skills that she was
missing in coming to the organization.”

What’s more, Wilk added, it showed that the candidate was
genuinely interested in what it would be like to work at this
specific company. “She really wanted to understand what she was
going to be up against,” Wilk said.

The candidate’s question, Wilk said, “caused me to be very
reflective” and “it led to a really great conversation.”

Read more:

An executive coach says practically everyone forgets to ask the
job interview question that exposes a big red flag

Interestingly, research suggests that highlighting potential
reasons for the employer not to hire you can be
beneficial. Writing in the
Harvard Business Review
, professors Tanya Menon and Leigh
Thompson recommend “calling out the elephant in the room.”

one 2014 study
suggests pointing out that your appearance is
atypical for this company, but that you can do the job anyway,
can help the hiring manager overcome their stereotypes. (Still,
it’s unclear whether this strategy would work as well outside the

Wilk understands that many people may be hesitant to acknowledge
their shortcomings in an interview. But she said that, for her,
the person who displays this kind of vulnerability “jumps ahead
to the top. To me there’s nothing more important than
self-awareness. If you can ask that question in the [interview],
it shows there’s a confidence that is very appealing.”

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