What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

by The Red Recruiter on October 29, 2009

2536358399_c16896768f_bIn a recent conversation with an HR friend, we began discussing the absurdity of the question “What’s your biggest weakness?” (WYBW).  Before you start nodding your head in disagreement, simply hear me out.

It’s overused, it’s nearly pointless AND the responses reek of BS.

So, in a burst of spastic defiance, we put together a short list of what to avoid when faced with this question.

10 Ways Not to Respond to WYBW

  1. I’m a perfectionist – Liar.
  2. I work too much – Of course you do…
  3. I’m too emotionally engaged – Don’t worry, we stock extra Kleenex for people like you.
  4. I put too much on my plate – You’re hired!
  5. I always try to include everyone – AKA King Water Cooler
  6. Gee, I can’t really think of any right now – Liar
  7. I take work too seriously – Guess we can’t put your stapler in JELLO
  8. Can we come back to that question? – Procrastination…?
  9. I’m too much of a team player – Whatever, you think-for-yourselfer
  10. I’m too opinionated – We’ll give HR the heads up!

Truth be told, despite our mocking of this question, it will not disappear anytime soon.  It has been and will continue to be, a tough question for job seekers to answer.

So, for what it’s worth here is my advice to both interviewers and interviewees:

Interviewees: The question really should be “What is an area of improvement you are currently working at and how?” Anything less than a solution-oriented answer to this question will fall short.

Example:

Q: What’s your biggest weakness?

A: I’m nervous speaking in front of large groups.  Six months ago, I enrolled in ToastMasters in order to improve my public speaking skills and calm my nerves when placed in these situations. I feel I am making great progress.

Interviewer:

If you can’t stop asking this question, than at least recognize it is difficult to answer.  Deliver the question with a smile and make sure you’ve done your work upfront to calm the candidate’s nerves so that they feel comfortable answering you candidly.

Questions in the interview process are worthless unless you are going to get a real response.  I’ve always found it useful to start the interviews with questions that are both easy to answer and allow the candidates to be completely themselves.  If you have yet to develop a series of questions for your repertoire that aim at this goal, I would encourage you to start there.

What’s your biggest weakness? 😉

Photo Credit, Eleaf

  • http://www.inflexionadvisors.com/blog Mark Stelzner

    My biggest weakness? Commenting on blog posts with rhetorical questions in the title.

    Dammit… did it again.

  • http://www.inflexionadvisors.com/blog Mark Stelzner

    My biggest weakness? Commenting on blog posts with rhetorical questions in the title.

    Dammit… did it again.

  • Shennee

    My biggest weakness, Is fear of failure. After being out of work for almost ten months. I have moment of self-doubt.
    hmmmm… How to conquer this one?

  • Shennee

    My biggest weakness, Is fear of failure. After being out of work for almost ten months. I have moment of self-doubt.
    hmmmm… How to conquer this one?

  • Collin

    I distract too many women in the workplace! They’re always staring at me.

  • Collin

    I distract too many women in the workplace! They’re always staring at me.

  • http://mintresumes.wordpress.com/ Marsha Keeffer

    I’d vote to eliminate this question from interviews entirely.

    Instead, find ways to probe and find out what the candidate doesn’t like to do, which will reveal important info. Or, as you’ve mentioned, ask directly about ways they’re working to improve their knowledge, skills and capabilities. If they’re not actively growing, are they a good bet anyway?

  • http://mintresumes.wordpress.com Marsha Keeffer

    I’d vote to eliminate this question from interviews entirely.

    Instead, find ways to probe and find out what the candidate doesn’t like to do, which will reveal important info. Or, as you’ve mentioned, ask directly about ways they’re working to improve their knowledge, skills and capabilities. If they’re not actively growing, are they a good bet anyway?

  • http://theredrecruiter.com/ The Red Recruiter

    @Mark – You crack me up!
    @Shennee – Push through it! The only failure is to stop 😉
    @Collin – Of course!
    @Marsha – Let’s start a petition! You pose an important question!

  • http://theredrecruiter.com The Red Recruiter

    @Mark – You crack me up!
    @Shennee – Push through it! The only failure is to stop 😉
    @Collin – Of course!
    @Marsha – Let’s start a petition! You pose an important question!

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