Thinking is what sets up apart from other creatures populating the Earth. We call it progressive for a good reason. This ability allowed us to solve a lot of problems, and learn how to use (or exploit) resources (and people), which allows us to live in a relative comfort, at least most of us, who aren’t exploited. But just like with everything else in life, balance is the key.
Thinking too much, incessantly, won’t really make you happy in life. Just ask people who need to swallow a pill to fall asleep at least for a few hours each night, because their mind is occupied non-stop with their desires and fears. They cannot stop thinking.
But what does this all imply for your job interview? Is overthinking a good weakness to mention, perhaps one some interviewers may consider a strength? Or should you rather avoid it when talking to the hiring managers?
And what should you say if they directly ask you whether you consider overthinking a weakness? We will try to find the answers to these questions on the following lines. Enjoy!
For technical and engineering jobs, overthinking is a “good weakness”
Think about jobs when creativity and logic matters. Position of a process engineer, mechanical engineer, game designer, software developer, and so on.
In all these instances it is important to have an ability to focus on one task for long enough, to analyze the problem in detail, to consider all possible solutions and outcomes. Applying for one of these jobs, you can certainly point out overthinking when hiring managers ask you about your weaknesses.
Some may actually consider it a strength in this case, and others won’t consider it a showstopper. Of course you can (and perhaps also should) elaborate on your answer, saying that you are aware of going over the line sometimes, and will try to “limit” your overthinking to a healthy extent. At the end of the day doing is the most important part of your job, not thinking.
Managers should be able to make quick decisions
The situation changes completely if you apply for a managerial role–especially when we talk about operational management. Living in a fast-paced world, when the first one who takes action is often the most successful one, you cannot afford thinking about everyday issues for hours.
If you apply for a managerial role, I’d not suggest picking overthinking for a weakness. What’s more, you should work on your ability to decide quickly, and get rid of your habit of over-analyzing things. It will be hard to make a successful managerial career while having it…
If you are not sure what weakness to talk about in this case, have a look at out analysis of the weaknesses interview question.
Manual labor, retail jobs, sales jobs, administrative roles – how much should you think?
A rule of a thumb is that in most places they prefer to see you working, not thinking. This is true especially when we talk about simple manual jobs, or repetitive roles, when you do the same things each day (answering phone calls, writing emails, making coffee).
What’s more, many places have excellent processes in place, and working manual for each employee. Leaders of such restaurants, hotels, and offices do not expect you to devise your own way of doing things in work, regardless of how effective it would be. They want you to follow their way of doing things, and adhere to their rules, regulations and procedures. Again, overthinking is not a good weakness to talk about when you interview for one of these jobs.
Special Tip: Question about overthinking isn’t the only tricky question you will face in your interview. If you like my reasoning here, consider having a look at our Interview Success Package, which includes analysis of, and sample answers to, more than 100 interview questions–including all tricky scenario-based questions. Check out some answers directly on the product page. It can be the part of the puzzle you are missing…
3 sample answers to “Is overthinking a weakness?” interview question
In some cases they may also ask you directly whether you consider overthinking a weakness. Let’s have a look at three sample answers to this question.
First one is good choice for most interviews, second one for the cases when it is actually good to think a lot (IT, science, engineering jobs), and the third one is rather unconventional and philosophical, and you can use it in any interview (as long as it rings true for you).
- I would say that overthinking is definitely a weakness. Now it doesn’t mean that we should blindly accept every order, or flip a coin when deciding about something important. We should have our way of deciding–perhaps quickly considering pluses and minuses of each option, writing them down on the paper if that helps. But then we should decide, and not over-analyze the problem, starting from scratch again. In my opinion, ability to decide quickly matters for each manager, and hence overthinking is definitely a weakness.
- I do not really consider it a weakness, especially when we talk about engineering roles. Look, if I always go for an obvious option, following what I’ve learned in my life so far, never trying something new, never considering some alternative options, I’d hardly help my employer with some real innovation. In our work it is important to analyze all details, to think things over carefully, to experiment. Hence I do not consider overthinking a weakness, as long as one doesn’t go over the line, thinking infinitely about some issue…
- Strength or weakness, I am not sure. But I know it is harmful for us to think too much. What we think about most of the time? Our problems, worries, our desires and fears. When we think we do not perceive the world around us, and never give our full attention to the present moment, to the task at hand. Thinking too much is one of the things that makes the human race unhappy. And true creativity never arises from our thinking mind… It’s the deeper intelligence within, the consciousness, which stands behind each amazing work of art, or creative genius. It may sound strange to you, but during many parts of my day I actually try not to think at all. And in work I think only when it can help me to solve some problem.
Conclusion, next steps
Just like with any other interview question, there’s no one-fit-all approach. A weakness for one position can be a strength for another one. And what one hiring manager considers a weakness, a showstopper in an interview, another manager may consider a strength, or at least something that doesn’t matter.
Think for a while about a job you try to get (but do not overthink it :)). Will you solve some difficult or technical problems in it? Will you engineer something, devise things from scratch? If that’s the case, it’s fine saying that overthinking is your weakness. In all other cases, you should rather avoid mentioning it, and look for something better for your interview answer.
What’s more, life’s not only work. Constantly thinking about stuff has never made anyone happy. Try to stop thinking. At least for an hour a day. Walk in the nature, do sports, listen to relaxing music, meditate, jump in a Jacuzzi and enjoy the bubbles… all these things can help you escape the useless stream of thoughts that seems to govern your life.
Learn to surrender, to accept the present moment as it is. In its core life is simple and beautiful. We just make it complicated with our overthinking…
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- How to tell a potential employer that you have another offer.
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