The fastest way to make a good
interview go bad is to avoid questions posed by the hiring
manager. The one question candidates love to avoid is, "What
is your greatest weakness?" Most candidates are quick to
respond with superficial answers such as "I'm a workaholic"
or "I'm a perfectionist." Not only are those responses
boring, but they are also predictable answers interviewers
are used to hearing. So much so that an interviewer's
comeback line often is, "That doesn't sound like a weakness.
Now why don't you tell me about a real weakness?"
Ouch. What an uncomfortable position
to be in-when a decision maker challenges you during an
interview. Just like you, the interviewer wants the process
to go as seamlessly as possible, and they quickly become
resentful when they are placed in a confrontational
When answering questions surrounding
your greatest weakness, my advice is to tell the truth-to a
point. Though I don't advocate providing a play-by-play of
every area that may need improvement, it isn't a good idea
not to cop to a weakness either. A happy medium does exist,
and it lies in focusing your response on an area that
doesn't have a major impact on your ability to do the job.
This should be an area that you are on your way to
improving. Note, not an area you've already improved, but
one that is well on its way.
Interviewers recognize that
jobseekers aren't forthcoming when answering the "greatest
weakness" question. As a result, there is a new trend in
hiring circles of interviewers cleverly disguising the
question and using a variation of the theme. In doing so,
interviewers are successfully stumping candidates, and are
receiving responses that uncover the not-so-pleasant side of
Cleverly Designed "Greatest
* We all have aspects of our job we
prefer not to do. What aspect of your day-to-day
responsibilities do you dislike?
In hopes of making you feel
comfortable, interviewers may ask questions that start with
"we." The psychology behind this is to make you feel as
though you are with a friend, which can cause you to let
your guard down.
* Think back to your last review.
What suggestions did your supervisor have for improvement?
The chances are extremely high that
your supervisor offered suggestions for improvement.
Interviewers are aware of this and anticipate that you will
disclose the details of your most recent evaluation.
* Describe a project you worked on
that didn't turn out as well as you expected.
Interviewers find that job seekers
reveal more when they are asked to tell a story. The
assumption is made that the more you talk, the more likely
you'll disclose your weaknesses.
* In what area of your work do you
think you can be more effective?
This question is very similar to
"greatest weakness" question. However, interviewers believe
the way the question is phrased will make you feel less
threatened, and therefore more likely to answer freely.
Bottom line: whether or not you want
to divulge sensitive information during an interview, an
interviewer is going to try his or her darnedest to dig for
skeletons in your closet. Interviewers want to uncover any
reasons why they shouldn't hire you, and they hope those
reasons will come straight from you. So be prepared.
Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth
of experience to the career services field. She has been
sought out for her knowledge of the employment market,
outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation,
and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall
Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com.
She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume
Writers' Association. Visit her website at
http://www.careerstrides.com or email her at