“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What is something you regret having done in the past?”
Interview questions you hope not to get. If you are not looking for a job, the feared performance appraisal meeting with the BOSS.
What exactly am I expected to say? The good news is that everyone has a weakness. No need to be defensive.
1. Use your judgment
Dont cite weakness in areas which are critical in your job. Such as “lack of attention to details” in accounting. Or something irrelevant like not being able to sing, if you are a banker.
Interviewers are also not expecting “confession box” answers. The interviewer is not a therapist, so now is not the time to talk about the skeletons in the closet. It may also reveal a candidates lack of common sense or not having done sufficient research by checking out critical competencies. I recall candidates who let their guards down to talk about feeling inadequate and not being sure if they are up for the job. Leave it out, or better still, don’t apply for the job. Maybe a recruiter appreciates your being candid? Not often.
2. A strength overplayed can become a weakness
One possibility is to talk about how our strengths can work against us. A double edged sword of sorts.
“Fear your strengths“, Robert Kaplan advised. When you have too much of a good thing, it can interfere with your leadership. In his research, Kaplan cited Enron’s Schilling who was a forceful character to the extent that he would bulldoze audit checks.
Dont just understand your strengths, understand what happens when you overuse them.
Example. Steve Jobs was famous for his attention to detail and design for his products. However, if attention to details cause you to miss deadlines, that becomes a serious problem. One must be ready to ship.
Also avoid overused labels like ‘I am a perfectionist’ which indicates lack of self awareness or condescending to others in the team.
Kaplan’s Leadership Versatility Index (LVI®) measures versatility on two major pairs of opposing but complementary leadership dimensions:
Forceful vs. enabling
Strategic vs. operational
What can I do?
3. Self Awareness and Willingness to get feedback
Show the interviewer that you are aware of this gap, and how it can interfere with your team’s productivity.
Building on the example above, show your willingness to listen to feedback or proactively sought feedback when you observed that the strength had become a weakness.
Leaders need a team to keep themselves in check.
In “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts”, Marshall Goldsmith suggests that getting feedback is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior.
4. Working on your weakness.
- Choose small changes
- Adopt a regimen
- Get counterweights or people in place to remind you (deferentially) or
- Using “triggers” like a photo or a 2×2 card as reminder
- Daily reflection question
On that note, top coach Marshall Goldsmith comes up with a list of 40 questions and pays someone to call him daily as a commitment device.
A leader who is forceful, may need to dial back, and be more enabling. Spend time listening and supporting, rather than rushing forth to take charge of a situation.
This was something Linda learned as a manager, over-talking when her subordinates remained quiet. Something she learned, was to refrain from over-talking and using the “pause” to help her, and asking for feedback.
So what’s your strength?
Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem: Robert E. Kaplan, Robert B. Kaiser
Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015).
#21st century skills#