QUESTION: The interview question I dread the most is:
Tell me what is your biggest weakness.
I have never been able to come up with an answer that isn't revealing some personal flaw that might be used against me in the final analysis.
Can you give us some examples as to how this question can be truthfully answered without doing more harm than good or sounding canned. This question is a real thorn in my side.
Okay. This is one I hear often.
Here's the honest truth:
Yes, you do have weaknesses (like every other human being), and yes, someone, somewhere may wish to hold it against you. However, if you're applying for jobs and preparing for interviews the way we show you, then your answer to this one question will make you even more attractive.
Let me explain.
First, never give a bullshit answer like "My weakness is, I'm too much of a perfectionist", or, "People say I work too hard."
(Interviewers hear this all the time, and it makes them want to roll their eyes.)
Nor should you undermine your chances by saying something like, "I really am not that great at..." and mention a critical skill. Because you're probably more capable than you realize, and can learn quickly.
Don't take yourself out the running.
Here's how you can pass this test with flying colors:
You've got to understand the purpose of this question. Everyone has weaknesses. It's the "downside" to having strengths. That's why interviewers love this question so much: It's a great way to check for congruency.
Congruency is key here.
If you're straight, and you share your weaknesses honestly, it lends credibility to your strengths -- if the two are related.
Let me give you an example:
I'm great at supporting team mates. Unfortunately, it also means I'm sensitive when it comes to negative feedback. You'd expect that though, right?
However, I've learned to not take it personally, and use the feedback to improve performance. (I'd always make sure to include this detail in an interview.)
There's something else you must know, and it's important:
If you complete the steps I take you through in Interview Success Formula, then you already know the most important strengths and character traits your prospective employer is looking for. And if you prepare exactly the way I show you, then you are actually reinforcing this strength.
Since you're "coming clean" about a weakness that aligns with one of these strengths, it lends credibility to what you're saying and makes you a more attractive candidate. (Like I said before, homework is vital here.)
If you're like Frank and you dread this question, then you need to work through our Interview Success Formula. If you're sitting on the fence about investing, this alone is good enough reason to make the leap.
Invest in Interview Success Formula here:
(And if you've already gone through this program, you might want to revise my notes and recommendations on this question, because there's more to it than what I have time to explain in this email.)
Next up, Donna asks:
I worked for the same company for 24 years. Two years ago the company decided to open a new distribution center, and soon after they "laid off" about 150 employees as part of a re-structure and have continued letting employees go since then.
I was one of the 150 employees.
Recently a job I was applying for called my old company, and when asked why I was let go they replied, "She was let go as part of a restructure along with about 150 other employees but we were really cleaning house and wanted her gone".
They said a few other unfavorable things. I am unable to find out who he spoke with, or even what department, I can only assume it was HR.
Needless to say I did not get the job.
This could be why there were several jobs that looked favorable but did not come through.
I was there for 24 years, clearly I was a good employee or they would have fired me long ago. I can't afford a lawyer to fight this and the employer that gave me the information does not want to get involved. How would you suggest I handle this going forward with any future, potential employers without trashing this company as they are trashing me?
I'll be straight with you Donna:
Given the size of the layoff, I'm surprised about their behavior. This is a tricky problem, and not being a lawyer, I can't advise on legal strategy. But I want to share another strategy.
I recommend taking a strong offence. From now on, direct prospective employers to references who you know will represent you well. It's not a perfect fix, but it will work at least some of the time.
Here's what I mean:
Find previous colleagues from this past job, and have them write letters of recommendation. These colleagues can be peers, supervisors, even customers, or even someone who reported to you. Submit these letters as additional pages with your resume. (Also add them to your LinkedIn profile.)
When you attend any interviews, also include a references contact page with your resume. Make sure to include the referrer's name, job relationship, phone number and email address.
Let the interviewer know about these, either when you're asked, or when you're wrapping up the interview. If appropriate, you can say that your past supervisor was also let go when you left, and so you have included their contact information here.
Finally, I would think about trying to get recommended or referred to your next job opportunity. If you already come recommended, that will decrease resistance. Where are the other 150 laid-off colleagues now working? Are any of these places hiring? What about other peers who have left during your 24 years there? Would they feel comfortable recommending you?
You should think about getting back in touch with these individuals to get more information. You might be surprised...
Finally, Angelique asks:
How do I resign gracefully?
Two months ago I started a new job. I was overqualified for the job and I used your interview tips to overcome the Manager's reticence to hire me. He took a chance on me, but now I have got a job offer from the government I can't refuse.
I feel bad because this is their busiest season. I have been productive because I didn't need much training but still I do not know how to approach this. I'll give them a notice of 3 weeks.
thank you for your help
I'm glad Angelique is asking me this.
It's really important that we NOT burn bridges. After all, we just saw above how damaging it can be when someone in your past feels resentful to you, and wants to harm your future prospects.
(Though if you only work at a job for a couple of months, you can choose to leave this experience off your resume.)
First, let's reflect on something important:
This is a nice "problem" to have. You effectively have your pick of what sounds like two excellent jobs here. Congratulations!
In this situation, I'd try to find an "external cause" here, if there is one. The less you can make this about you and your ambitions, the less likely he is to feel like you have let him down.
On the other hand, also remember:
Circumstances do change. If the company in question experienced a sudden crisis, they'd have no reservations about letting you go.
Be pragmatic, and avoid creating ill will where you can. If you can act with integrity through this process, then you don't need to feel guilty. Okay?
The first step is to notify this manager quickly, so he has as much time as possible to find a replacement. This is a hard conversation to have. One way to soften the blow (if possible) is to solve problems or contribute some kind of long-lasting value. Make sure the manager knows about it.
Then, have a quiet word with him and talk about the "external cause" we spoke about, and how you'd never forgive yourself if you didn't take this opportunity. In this case I might suggest that you had applied to this job long before accepting your current position and had not expected a reply at this point, but the government hiring process is slow, and this other job is basically your dream job. Also, be sure to let the manager know that you are going to leave this organization in as strong a position as possible.
And take the following steps:
1) If possible, stick around through the busy season, so you don't leave them in an uncomfortable position. If the busiest work will last say five weeks instead of three, I would encourage you to stay just a bit longer. Though not always possible, this would most positively impact their future perception of you. In addition, you could also offer to work as a weekend consultant for a short time to help them manage the current heavy work load.
2) Given how well you know how to do this job, create a step-by-step documentation manual so that someone who is not an expert can quickly step in and keep everything running well.
For example, include computer screen shots or images, diagrams, step-by-step instructions, scripts for phone calls, etc. The hope would be that even a temp could "hold down the fort".
3) Take a genuine interest in helping him find a replacement and training them to step in and continue the work you're doing. If you know someone who would be a perfect fit or would do well, contact that person. It's the decent thing to do, and you'll create valuable good will in the process.