Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Answer the Weakness Question

This query has been an enduring weapon in the hiring manager's arsenal, but most people still have trouble with the dilemma it poses: answer too frankly, and you'll torpedo your prospects. Bestow a canned answer and you'll seem phony, or worse, evasive. We have all at one time or another been faced with the dreaded "weakness" question. Why shouldn't we dread this inquiry? The employer is virtually asking why he/she shouldn't hire you!

A savvy interviewer may disguise the "weakness" question... He/she might pose the (weakness) question as:
  • What are three self-limiting thoughts?
  • Tell me about a time in your career that you really goofed up?
  • If I were to call your best reference and ask him/her for 3 reasons not to hire you for this job, what would he/she say?

  • What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with?

Yes, she/he may even ask: What is your greatest weakness?

There are virtually unlimited questions that an employer may ask in an effort to extract your inner soul!

As demonstrated above, the weakness question may come in many different forms. There is no steadfast answer(s) to the "weakness" question. Sure, you can describe a weakness that has nothing to do with job you are applying for; um uh...chocolate. Please don't say you are a perfectionist or that you work too hard! These answers will certainly put your integrity at risk.
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How to Answer Any Weakness Question

Your interview answers should play out like a good story with a positive and happy ending! It's always a good idea to put your weaknesses in the past and talk about what you've done to correct them and then end with a positive outcome. When done properly, you will demonstrate integrity by not doing the circumlocution bit and you will end your answer with a powerful and factual outcome based on your ability to successfully convert the weakness to a strength!

There is no possible way to prepare and rehearse an individual answer for every potential weakness question. However, with a little practice, you can learn to formulate an answer for any question and never be stumped again!

Here's how: Whenever you are asked a question and it is immediately obvious (you will feel it in the pit of your stomach) that the interviewer wants you to say something NEGATIVE about yourself; you must practice doing three things 1. Repeat the question; this buys you time and allows you to quickly formulate a masterful response. 2. Start your answer with any event or incident that happened in the past (always put your weakness in the past). 3. Explain the weakness... do not get long winded or become circumlocutory; rather, explain a situation that started out bad, what you did to correct it and then end your answer with a positive factual outcome.

IE: When I was hired in to the Regional Sales Director job back in 2001, my predecessor had left the position 6 months prior. When I took over the department, sales were down, turnover was at an all time high; and I realized for the first time in my career that one of my greatest weaknesses was my ability to turn-around a failing sales division. My mentoring and management skills were not what I thought they were; However, upon working many 80-100 hour weeks; retraining supervisory and sales staff, reorganizing and developing departmental protocol and sales training procedures; I was able to increase sales volume by 33% in the first fiscal quarter for our entire Northeast division. (The same answer you might use if the interviewer asked you what your greatest accomplishment was.) Never forget the ABC's of interviewing (Always Be Closing)!

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