Handling That Dreaded Interview Question

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Let me set up the scenario: you're enjoying polite (perhaps even enjoyable) small talk, you start to settle in to tell your story about why you are perfect for the job, and then it comes. That question. "What would you say is your biggest weakness?" You pause for silent reflection. (Perhaps even tilt your head a little.) Then, typically, many people deliver one of the classic stock answers like, "I seem to take on too much. I guess I'm just passionate about what I do."

Sound familiar? While it's okay to deliver this response, wouldn't it be great to give your potential employer a more honest sense of who you are? Narinder Singh, President of Topcoder, an IT company, has a favorite question he likes to ask in interviews: "Are you a get-there-early-for-the-flight person or a barely-make-it-in-time person?" There is no right or wrong answer, and he finds it opens up a great discussion about how people approach the world. I love that.

Now, getting back to the 'weakness' question, I know you want to look fabulous, confident, and capable. And since you are all of those things, why not try thinking about preparing for this moment as a great exercise in self-awareness? Stay with me here.

This kind of self-awareness could potentially be the gift that keeps on giving.

Why? Because it allows you to get real about what you like to do and what you don't. This knowledge is so important not only for your interview but also in helping you navigate your (hopefully) long and richly rewarding career path.

Who are you and what do you like to do? Let's not confuse this with what you are good at. Many people can be taught skills but what is it that you really like to do? And, let's be honest, what would you rather not? For me, hands down, it's creating a detailed Excel spreadsheet. (Oh, the horror, the horror!)

Ask yourself some key questions: Are you a big picture "blue sky" idea person, or do you delight in the minutiae of details? Are you in your element delivering a sales pitch or more comfortable behind the scenes creating detailed presentations? Are you the first person to ask a question/offer an answer in a meeting, or do you enjoy sitting back, absorbing the discussion, and then speaking up? You might connect with parts of all of the above, but what key internal drivers really stand out for you?

There are many ways to respond to the 'weakness' question.

Instead of dreading the moment, think about it as a way for you to reveal a bit more about yourself and the things that really motivate you.

I'll leave you with the response that Liz Ryan, Founder and CEO, Human Workplace, favors, "... it makes no sense for me to think of myself as having weaknesses. These days I focus on getting better at things I'm already good at." Food for thought.
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