What’s Your Achilles Heel?

“What is your greatest weakness?” or some such question that necessitates that you divulge some personal flaw is very common among employers (I’ve been asked this in 80% of interviews). At face value the question seems innocent enough, and some people will gloss over it without a second thought. However, this question actually communicates a great deal to the person hiring you.

If you aren’t prepared for such a question you may come up with the brilliant idea of employing a humblebrag as your response. Examples of this answer include:

“I’m too much of a perfectionist”

“I’m too detail oriented”

“I work to hard” or “I’m a a workoholic”

These answers essentially translate into: “I’m so awesome in every aspect that my awesomeness can some how be construed as negative”. May as well just come out and say how damn awesome or over qualified you are. Those answers don’t merit much respect as they don’t require any critical thinking or introspection. Moreover, these replies further damage your chances because they demonstrate how transparent you are, since you’re obviously lying. Being perfect is not your biggest weakness silly rabbit, being a crappy liar is!

A more effective of harnessing this questions ability to make you stick out from the pack is to be honest. Now, don’t go telling them how your biggest weakness is that your violent or a kleptomaniac; instead tell them about a problem you’ve had at work before (the magnitude is up to your discretion) and how you systematically took steps to improve or resolve the issue. While telling them you start fires at the workplace won’t win you any praise, telling them that you start fires AND are now making a conscious effort to extinguish them afterwords is something every employer can feel comfortable with. The point is that you are able to critically self evaluate, and aspire to improve or develop. Who knows, maybe one day you won’t even start fires in the work place.

This question won’t necessarily be asked in this exact format, but could take on other forms. For instance, you could be asked about how you dealt with a difficult customer or employee, or how you remedied a mistake you made. Once again Mr. or Mrs. Glass House, don’t answer by saying you’ve never had anyone difficult at work or that you’ve never made a mistake. Instead actually divulge some imperfection, and recover by demonstrating how you made an effective decision or set of decisions that lead to mitigating the damage or by repairing it.

If you’ve never encountered any scenario where you were actually the cause for the solution then you’re lying again! Because if you think real hard, YOU have definitely made less than appealing situation somewhat less bad. Be it that someone used to always eat your lunches and you started writing your name on them to fix this issue, or that it was always cold in the work place so you closed the window, I’m 100% sure you’ve made the workplace a little better at one point in time in your life. But some situations appear more impressively in an interview than others.

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