How To Answer 'What's Your Greatest Weakness?'
credit to forbes.com
For years now it has been true that it’s much easier to perform a job than to get the job.
Many corporate and institutional functions and activities have devolved over the past 20 years, but the recruiting process in virtually every medium-sized and large employer has devolved the most.
These days it is a trial to get through the typical recruiting process. It seems that employers in their zeal to hire the perfect person for the job have added so many steps and layers to the recruiting pipeline that receiving a job offer is more often a test of your perseverance than a reflection of your talent.
The brokenness in the recruiting process and paradigm has to change, and it will change as employers wake up to the fact that a charged-up and capable team is their only true competitive advantage.
Some of them are starting to get the message, and some organizations have always known that only the talent and commitment of their team members could set them apart from their rivals.
When you interview for a job these days, you’re likely to run into unqualified and unprepared interviewers, goofy and insulting steps in the recruiting process and stupid interview questions that will make you want to get up and leave.
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If you go to a job interview and the signs are everywhere that the people you’re dealing with are not people you could work with and for, you can certainly get up and leave the interview room.
You are free to come and go as you please!
If your gut is screaming, “You don’t have time for these goofballs,” then do it — just rise from your chair, extend your hand for a friendly parting handshake and say, “I’m so grateful for your time today — it’s been wonderful to meet you but I hate to take up any more of your time, since it’s not going to be a great fit between me and this job. I wish you and your team all the best” — and scram.
Get out of the building and get yourself a nice gelato to celebrate stepping out of a box. For years most of us would have been afraid to leave an interview in mid-conversation. Not now!
Every time you get bitten by a snake in your job search, your career or your life, you’ll have more protection against pointless situations and no-account people who don’t deserve your time. Every time you say, “No!” to the wrong things, you invite the right things — and people — in.
You get to decide whether to stay or to bolt when you hear stupid interview questions like “What’s your greatest weakness?”
There are lots of bad job interview questions, but this question might be the worst of all.
Who says you have a weakness, for starters? The Puritan-inspired belief that all people come to this planet with weaknesses is a sickness. It is a paralyzing belief that should have a name, like Irrational Lack of Belief in People.
Most folks who grew up in the U.S. have heard some variation of this belief:
• Nobody’s perfect.
• We all have our faults.
• Everybody is good at some things and bad at others.
These three beliefs are part of a larger belief system that many of us were taught as kids. We were taught so well that we can’t even tell we carry the belief system around with us.
We won’t see the belief system “Everybody has weaknesses” unless we stop and ask, “Who says?”
Around the world, people who didn’t get the “people have weaknesses” indoctrination believe that babies come to earth perfectly equipped to follow their paths. There is nothing wrong with them. They have no defects in need of correcting. There is a place in this world for them to shine!
Why must be there something wrong with us? Maybe we’d all be happier and healthier if we stopped noticing and obsessing about our “weaknesses” and focused on our strengths!
You can get offended when a job interviewer shoves his or her belief system down your throat by asking you “What’s your greatest weakness?” and I don’t blame you if you do take offense.
“What’s your greatest weakness?” is a terribly rude and intrusive question to ask a person, even someone you are dating. It’s a personal question.
The fact that so many of us take it for granted and accept it as normal that a perfect stranger in a suit and tie can ask you that question and expect a heartfelt answer in any setting, much less in a business conversation — a job interview — is shocking.
We can’t see how dirty the water in our fishbowl has become. We are so used to swimming in the filthy Traditional Business fishbowl that we can’t tell how dirty the water is.
We can’t see how arrogant and impolite it is for interviewers to ask job applicants presumptuous questions. We grew up believing that employers are mighty and job candidates are ants scurrying about, interchangeable and lucky even to get the interview.
Still, you may want to give the interviewer and his or her employer a chance even when this obnoxious question pops out of their mouth. Maybe they are just behind the curve. They don’t realize that “What’s your greatest weakness” is a massively inappropriate question to ask, and it’s on their interview script, so they ask it.
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If you want to stick around and answer the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” you have choices. Here are five ways to answer:
What’s your greatest weakness?
• I used to worry a lot about things I don’t naturally do well, and I used to try to correct what I thought were my defects. The older I get the less I worry about the millions of things I don’t do well and will never do well, and the more I focus on the things I love to and am good at, like forecasting.
• I tried golf one time and I was terrible at it! I prefer hiking and cycling. How about you?
• I’ve got three weaknesses: action movies, Sudoku puzzles and Rocky Road ice cream.
• If we define “weaknesses” as things I’m not good at, then there are millions of them — any kind of video game, fly-tying and countless other things. If we define “weaknesses” as things I’m working on getting better at, then the list would include animation and illustration. I tried my hand at composing music for the first time recently. What are you working on?
• I’m weak when it comes to resisting anybody’s offer to teach me something new. I can’t get enough learning, no matter what kind of learning it is!
There are three things to notice about the five sample answers above.
The first is that all of our suggested answers question the frame — they call out the question, “What’s your greatest weakness?” itself instead of meekly answering it the way most Sheepie Job Seekers do.
The second thing to notice is that the questions inject your personality and point of view into your answer.
The third is that they equalize the power relationship between you and your interviewer.
By answering this very traditional interview question in a non-traditional way, you invite your interviewer to step out of his or her boxy mindset and step up to a higher level with you — the human level.
That is your gift to your interviewer, whether you end up in the job or not.