You know the one we’re talking about: “What’s your greatest weakness?” If you’re at a job interview and you’re not ready to say what your greatest weakness is, then your greatest weakness is being unprepared.
In a recent “Dear Lucy” column, Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times looked at the right way to go about concocting an answer that will pass muster with the interviewer.
She says it’s dumb to name something that’s obviously a strength, e.g., “I’m too demanding,” “I’m too hardworking.” At best, you’re not fooling anyone, and at worst, your interviewer might think you’re “insufferably smug, deceitful, or [have] no self-knowledge.” (And it might even prompt the interviewer to ask the same thing all over again, in a slightly different way.)
On the other hand, you don’t want to answer honestly. Maybe you’re lazy and like to stay up all night watching True Blood — that’s great (kind of?), but most interviews can’t handle that much real talk.
As Lucy puts it, “Clearly such proper faults must be locked in the most secure hiding place and the key thrown away. Instead, what you must do is find a small flaw and put it on display along with an explanation.” So maybe you were once a little disorganized when you got caught up in work that you love, but since then you’ve gone to great lengths to fix this (actually quite small) fault.
There’s more on the “greatest weakness” thing from NPR’s Scott Simon, who quotes Keith Murnighan, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, who thinks the whole question is “stupid…. It’s basically unethical.”
Maybe so, but it still has to be answered if you have any hope of landing that job. How have you approached the question in the past, and what’s worked well?
- The Questions to Ask at Your Next Job Interview
- Weird Job Interview Questions and How to Deal with Them
[Photo: Paul Stevenson/Flickr]