No matter where you’re at in your doctor career, difficult interview questions can be nerve-wracking and frustrating. In some cases, it might even feel like a potential employer is actively trying to trip you up. Though this can be the case during an intimidation-style or “bad cop” interview, it typically isn’t.

Let’s look at one of the most common difficult interview questions of all time: “What is your biggest weakness?”

Ugh… doesn’t that question make you cringe? Even though it’s cliché, it’s still a difficult question. And if you want to stand out as a serious candidate, you need to provide a non-cliché answer.

Below are a few tips for understanding this question and providing the best answer possible.

Though this post mainly addresses the question “What is your biggest weakness?”, you can apply most of these principles to any difficult question asked throughout your doctor career.

Doctor Career: Why Employers Ask About Your Weaknesses

Even though it might seem like it, employers don’t ask about your weaknesses because they want to watch you squirm.

Usually, they want to gauge how self-aware you are. If you can be honest about your shortcomings, that’s a good thing. It means you’re more likely to work on self-improvement and performance throughout your doctor career. Candidates who can’t see any weaknesses in themselves might be identified as stubborn or conceited.

The best thing you can do is to realize that this question is coming from a good place, not an antagonistic one. Your interviewer wants to see you be honest and express some modesty about yourself. No one is perfect.

This question might also be asked to see how you react under stress. It’s a standard part of the interview process. Rather than fear it and view it as “bullying,” the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself as best as possible.

Spin Your Answer Positively (But Not Too Positively)

If an interviewer asks you about your biggest weakness, the worst answer you can provide is that you’re a perfectionist and you work too hard on your doctor career goals. That answer is about as cliché and overused as it gets. Your interviewer will see straight through it.

Even if you are a perfectionist and you do work too hard, you’ll need to think of something else. Be honest with yourself and think of several weaknesses you could give as answers.

It’s fine to spin your answer in a positive way, but don’t overdo it. For example, explaining that you tend to overanalyze problems and consequently spend too much time on specific tasks could be viewed as a good thing, as it shows that you’re detail-oriented and conscientious. But it doesn’t come off as being eager to please in the way that saying you’re a workaholic or a perfectionist does.

Explain How You’re Working to Overcome a Weakness

Being open and honest about a weakness with a potential employer shows that you’re self-aware. You can show even more self-awareness by explaining how you’re working to overcome a weakness.

Let’s say you give the answer that you’re slow at performing certain tasks or procedures, and that it sometimes frustrates others when you take too long. You can then say something like, “However, I’ve been working to improve my times by doing X, Y and Z. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m definitely seeing improvement.”

This shows that you’re capable of self-evaluation and improvement, and it doesn’t make you seem the least bit conceited or big-headed. If you’re interviewing for the first position of your doctor career, this is probably the best way to answer such a question.

How would you approach this question if you were being interviewed for the first job of your doctor career?

Doctor Career: Sponsors

Though the views expressed above are solely the writer’s, Beloit Health supports “The Dose with Dr. Goodhook” and is partnering with Adventures in Medicine to create an open, inspiring and insightful community for residents and physicians. Click here to learn more about ways that Beloit Health is making practice purposeful.