First installment of ‘Horrible interview questions and how to answer them.’

How to answer interview question, what is your greatest weakness?

The secret to answering this question is to think of a genuine example. No one likes to hear, “I work too hard.” And if you think you can get away with saying, “I really can’t think of any weaknesses I have,” then be ready for the interviewer to say, “Oh, take all the time you need. We all have weaknesses. I’ll wait.”

If you really want a very safe answer, then think about some skill you would like to be better at. It should relate somehow to your job. If you are in marketing, you could say, “Even though data analytics isn’t something I do a lot in my current job, I would love to know more about it so I can be more effective at it. In fact, I am taking an online course through Coursera to learn more about it.”

That answer gives you a clue to the key to structuring your answer to this question, no matter what example you give. I prefer more authentic responses.

Follow these 3 steps to answer the interview question, What's your greatest weakness?
1) Name the weakness
2) Acknowledge the impact the weakness has on your work
3) Discuss how you are resolving the weakness, either through classes or mentoring or just general self-awareness

For example, I might say, “You know, I’d have to say it’s impatience. I’ve dealt with this my whole life. I know I need to address it because I never want my employees to think I am too busy to answer their questions. So I make it a point to take time out of my day and just walk around my department and make myself available for questions. You know, it’s funny how you can find answers to anything on the Internet. I found a great article from Psychology Today about dealing with impatience. What really helped, and I practice this every day, is to notice where I am feeling impatience in my body. For me, I notice my jaw clenching. When I notice this, I take 10 deep breaths and before I even get to 5, I am already much more relaxed.”

So, to break this down using the 3 steps:

1) Name the weakness
“You know, I’d have to say it’s impatience. I’ve dealt with this my whole life. 
2) Acknowledge the impact it has on your work
"I know I need to address it because I never want my employees to think I am too busy to answer their questions. 
3) Discuss how you are resolving the weakness, either through classes, online research, mentoring or just general self-awareness
"So I make it a point to take time out of my day and just walk around my department and make myself available for questions. You know, it’s funny how you can find answers to anything on the Internet. I found a great article from Psychology Today about dealing with impatience. What really helped, and I practice this every day, is to notice where I am feeling impatience in my body. For me, I notice my jaw clenching. When I notice this, I take 10 deep breaths and before I even get to 5, I am already much more relaxed.”

Everyone who is planning to go into an interview must have an answer ready for this question.   Not one HR Director has signed my petition on change.org to stop the use of this question during interviews.  And they have stopped returning my calls. So I have a feeling that question is here to stay.

So what answer will you use? For the first five people who enter their "weakness" in the comment section, I'll take a stab at helping you to use my formula to answer it.

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