Worldwide Panel LLC, a small market-research firm, is getting flooded with resumes for four vacancies in sales and information technology.
However, officials expect to reject numerous applicants after asking them: ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ Candidates often respond ‘with something that is not a weakness,’ say ChrisTOPher Morrow, senior vice president of the Calabasas, Calif., concern. ‘It is a deal breaker.’
The weakness question represents the most common and most stressful one posed during interviews. Yet in today’s weak job market, the wrong answer weakens your chances of winning employment.
Some people offer replies they mistakenly assume that bosses love, such as ‘I am a perfectionist.’ That response ‘will be used against you’ because you appear incapable of delegating, warns Joshua Ehrlich, dean of a master’s program in executive coaching sponsored by BeamPines Inc., a New York coaching firm and Middlesex University in London.
A careful game plan could help you cope with the shortcoming query in a way that highlights your fit for a desired position. Job seekers who field the question well demonstrate that they can ‘take initiative and improve themselves,’ Mr. Morrow says.
The key? Thorough preparation. Career specialists suggest you take stock of your weaknesses, focusing on job-related ones that won’t impede your ability to perform your duties. Tony Santora, an executive vice president for Right Management, a major outplacement firm in Philadelphia, says an information-technology manager flubbed a 2007 interview by choosing a personal foible as his reply: ‘My true weakness is that I am a terrible cook.’
Rehearse your responses aloud, role play with a friend or videotape yourself — but don’t memorize your words. As you review the video, look for aspects ‘you would like to change so you can continue to get better as you practice,’ says Peggy Klaus, a leadership coach in Berkeley, Calif.
The IT manager changed his tune after practice sessions with fellow job seekers and a counselor in Cincinnati for Right Management. He instead said he worked such long hours that he found it difficult to stay current with world events. So, he spent 30 minutes every evening catching up at home.
When the manager pursued an opportunity at a global drug maker, his revamped response ‘really resonated with the interviewer,’ says Mr. Santora. The manufacturer hired the man.