The weakness question. One of the most feared and misunderstood questions. Yes it is cliché, but that doesn’t mean it is going to go away. In fact what I have seen throughout my 15 years of recruitment is that the weakness question has evolved and that also means the expectations of a candidate and their answer have evolved too.
Just to clear the air, the weakness question is not meant to get you to show how you are NOT the right person for the job, it isn't a trick question meant to trip you up! It is a question to figure out your ability to recognize a weakness, problem or obstacle, come up with a plan to mitigate or overcome the issue and then move forward successfully.
It is a self-awareness question.
And right now the work world is changing drastically. The need has increased for management to focus on high level strategic thinking and not hand holding their employees. Employees who more and more are working from home. Therefore, organizations need to know that they can count on you to notice a problem before it grows into something that has wider ramifications. That is why this question is so important.
I want you to improve your interview skills and show you the key answers to avoid giving so that a recruiter is not rolling their eyes at your answer (it happens, trust me) and eliminating you as a potential fit for the role.
1. Strength wearing a Weakness Mask
The weakness that is not really a weakness. This was what we used to coach individuals on how to answer this (and how some still coach – but please DO NOT listen to them!). Like I mention above, recruiters, hiring managers and organizations want MORE now. And this answer doesn’t tell them how you actually deal with the difficult times that are sure to come and that are a normal part of a career. What it does tell them is that you are either a “smooth talker” always trying to talk your way out of situations or someone who lets others do the fixing for them.
2. “I’m a perfectionist, a workaholic, scared of public speaking”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of the above I would be one rich lady. These are so overused! So even if these are your weaknesses, you can’t use them. Well, you can’t use them with these words, there is another way to handle it but that is a recruiter secret for next week. Using one of these common answers tells the interviewer that you are unimaginative and that you just googled a answer.
3. A Hard Skill
Hard skills are something that anyone can learn and overcome. Yes it may be easier for others but think about it, how easy to realize you aren’t good at a technology or a hard skill! Does it actually take some self-awareness? Not really. So what it tells the recruiter is that your Emotional Intelligence is low and that you would rather look at easy things to fix instead of the hard work required to overcome a soft skill weakness.
4. Not My Fault
This type of answer is rage inducing as a interviewer. It is defensive, it puts the blame onto others, and it makes you look bad. Make sure you aren’t using the words “it wasn’t my fault”, “it seemed to my boss that I”, “I was surprised that my manager had that feedback as…” – all of those mean that someone else’s perception is faulty, not you. It tells the hiring manager that you don’t take accountability for your actions, that you will always point fingers and that you are clueless.
5. I don’t really have a weakness
Major eyeroll. Honestly this was so annoying as a recruiter to hear this, even if it was a joke! I couldn’t help but think I was dealing with someone who was truly delusional. Everyone has a weakness. Everyone.
So if you can’t use any of those to create an answer well then what can you use?
An honest answer.
One that talks about an obstacle you faced in your career. Maybe you received feedback from a boss on how you handled a client, or maybe you made the wrong choice in a key decision or maybe you failed in some way.
Tell them about that time. And then about what you did to overcome it. Finish with how this helped mold you to become the person you are today.
That is a formula that is sure to show that you are self-aware, that you own up to your own actions and are willing to do what it takes to succeed, even if it means doing a lot of work on yourself.
If you need more help, schedule a Discover Your Career strategy call with me or think about Interview Coaching - your dream job is worth the investment.
Remember when you were a kid. Bedtime was the worst, wasn’t it. Especially when the lights went out and the monsters came out. Especially the ones that lived under your bed, or in your closet or in the shadows on the wall.
Do you remember screaming for your parents who would slowly and bedrugingly come into room? They would turn on the lights and those shadow turned out to be innocent pieces of furniture, when you looked underneath your bed there were no monsters just long lost and dusty toys and your closet? Only full of clothes.
The job search can feel like those monsters. It can leave you feeling stressed out and discouraged. And can leave you spending hours on Indeed throwing resumes out there in the hopes of finding something as a way to avoid this scary beast that is the job search! But it is the unknown that is so terrifying but once you turn the lights on it becomes less scary. In fact it becomes something manageable and doable.
Knowing the steps and what is to come is key to turn that big scary monster into some innocent thing! Plus moving through the job search in a more structured and intentional way will give you more control over the job search.
That is why I created The Job Search Roadmap. This is a roadmap that goes over every single step of the job search giving you a sense of what is to come, giving you a plan of action to follow and leaving you feeling empowered instead of discouraged.
This step is vital. It allows you to figure you who you are (and what your superpower is) and also digs into your skills, interests and motivations. It then allow you to create your Career Map – what your goals are and what options exist right now to get you on the path to those goals.
2. Marketing Plan
During a job search you become your own product and you are selling and marketing yourself to potential networking connections and potential employers. Think about the message you want to convey. Write your modern, foundational resume and cover letter. Practice your elevator pitch. And don’t forget your social media strategy.
3. The Job Search
A lot of work comes before you even get to this! But all that work helps prepare you for putting yourself out there. Networking is key since three-quarters of jobs are found this way so figuring out any events, setting up some informational interviews, leveraging LinkedIn – all these different networking types will help you make connections. I don’t want you to ignore job boards, just come up with a plan to use them to actually get a job, go to career fairs if it makes sense and get used to dealing with recruitment agencies.
4. Getting Hired
The best part of the process. It all starts with the interview – prepare to answer those two common yet dreaded questions, deal with those nerves and get ready to shine. Figure out your bottom line so when that offer comes in you know how to get your worth.
I’ve made this even easier for you. The most popular free resource I’ve created is a 5 day email course on The Job Search Roadmap. Each day you get an email expanding each step with vital information to get you noticed, creating connections and finding your way to that dream career.
If you came to my first Discover Your Career Weekly Q&A session then you’ll have heard about my first informational interview.
It was soon after university, after I got back from backpacking around the world. I was looking for a job and doing the typical hours and hours on the popular job boards at the time but I wasn’t having any luck.
So my dad set up an informational interview with one of his friends who happened to be a CEO at a local not-for-profit. I had the interview and 3 weeks later a contract came up. It was then that I realized that all that networking “malarkey” I had learned about through my co-op program really was actually quite powerful.
So I’ve been a champion of networking since the beginning days of my career. But I know not everyone feels the same way.
I think most people know that networking is the best way to find a new job. I also think that most people don’t do a lot of networking.
Why is that? Well there are a lot of reasons but I think they don’t know where to start, feel a little bit scared or have fallen for one of these networking myths. And since networking already has a sort of stigma around it, I wanted to demystify the whole process by debunking the most common misconceptions.
Myth 1: Networking is for sales people or people who want to schmooze their way to the top.
Sales people and people anxious to get ahead seem like they are “natural networkers” but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t for everyone.
In fact, schmoozers and sales individuals are only good at networking with a very specific type of person (usually other sales or schmoozers!) because networking is about starting a new relationship and open, honest communication and trust are key components to any new relationship. So sometimes those schmoozers don’t get anywhere because honestly, who wants to hire a used car salesman (unless of course you are hiring a used car salesman!).
If you are authentic and genuine in how you create relationships, then guess what you are a networker!
Myth 2: Networking is all about getting you what you want, a job.
I’m not going to lie and say that wanting a job and using your networking to help is not okay because honestly that is why most people network. But, that shouldn’t be your only goal. To me the main goal of networking is to build your network with like-minded professionals, to create a relationship that provides value to both parties involved and to offer opportunities that may not otherwise exist.
When you enter into a networking conversation, start by asking questions about the other person – about their role, their career, the company, etc. Offer solutions to any problems or issues that they are dealing with, if you have them. NEVER ask for a job.
If you get them invested in your career, they will want to hire you or see you succeed.
Myth 3: They must know everything about you and your career
You are not hosting an infomercial about you. I have had those meetings where the person goes on and on (somehow barely even taking a breath!) to talk about their experience, background and what they want and their goals. And I’m talking detail here, not an elevator pitch!
The individual does not need to know about every project you have every worked on. They also don’t need you to go through your resume with them. This isn’t about you.
Remind yourself the purpose of the meeting, it isn’t to sell yourself. It is to start a relationship.
Myth 4: You don’t really need to prepare for networking meetings
Honestly this is even worse than not preparing for an interview. Because at least for the interview, I asked you to come in. For a networking meeting, I’m taking the time out of my schedule to meet with you because you asked for help. So please have the courtesy to prepare. Don’t just wing it!
Go in with your questions that you want to ask, practice your elevator pitch and have a goal in mind of how you want the meeting to go.
As the person who asked for the meeting you set the agenda and facilitate the meeting, not the other way around!
Myth 5: You are just being a pest by asking for networking meetings.
This is one I hear all the time. Honestly, there are some people out there who may view you as a pest. But for the majority of people they will be happy to help.
Think about the last time someone asked you for advice or help? How did you feel? Probably felt pretty good about yourself. Because it is a compliment!
And as long as your priorities are right, that this is to build a networking relationship, one that is two sided where you offer help and where you gain advice and information, then anyone would be happy to meet with you.
Myth 6: Your contacts will find you a job.
Your contacts should be your top priority in a networking strategy, and a lot of the time they are really helpful in finding you new roles. But, they shouldn’t be it. Your contacts are great advocates for you, but depending on the size of your network, the number of opportunities could be fairly narrow.
Besides, why should it be their job to find YOU a job? Sure you want them to be invested in your success and therefor advocating for you when the moment is right. But you can’t expect them to go asking around for a job for you!
So take the time to build your network with individuals you haven’t spoken to before, get them invested in your success and you’ll have more advocates out there!
Myth 7: Your job is done once you get the LinkedIn Connection or Business Card.
This is another common one! That once someone accepts a LinkedIn request or hands over their business card that your work is now done. That those people are now out there, with you top of mind, trying to figure out how to hire you or to have someone else hire you.
I hate to break it to you, but that is just not the case! You need to get them invested in your career and the only way to do that is to engage them in a meaningful conversation, offer your own help and insight when relevant and to ask for advice and information. And then to keep that conversation going by following up with them over email to thank them and update them!
I know I sounded like a broken record! But networking really does boil down to building relationships.
I think that networking is probably one of the hardest things about careers and job searches. But when done right and effectively, there is no other tool that will lead you to success more than it.
If this is something you really struggle with, maybe I can help with that. I do networking specific training that focuses on building a networking strategy that will work for YOU.
Did you know that this month I’m celebrating the first birthday of my career coaching business? And to celebrate, I’m offering 10% of all my Find Your Way packages. Set up a FREE Discover Your Career Strategy call and let’s see how I can help you get unstuck and find your way to your dream career.
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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