Taking on the “Greatest Weakness” Question (Perspective #2)

Yesterday, Jonathan Krass gave HR’s take on the “greatest weakness” question that strikes fear in the hearts of job seekers everywhere!

But does every HR person have the same opinion? We’ll find out — giving his point of view on the same question is HR pro Bob Tarver!

Why is the question of the greatest weakness asked of job candidates?

I have always felt that the question is used as a elimination question. I have talked to many hiring managers and HR colleagues (off the record) who have said that they used a “script” when conducting an interview, and the question was always on that particular script.

When I have been asked that question as a prospective candidate, I try to observe the body language the interviewer shows because it might tell me how sincere they are or if they are going through the motions.

As an interviewer, I do not ask this question because I am interested in what a candidate brings to the table and what can they do for my company by impacting the bottom line. I also believe that since there are so many websites about job interview preparation and college career centers that offer courses in interview prep, the answer given will be a “canned” response. It could show the candidate’s creativity in how they formulate their answer, but I do not feel I will really learn that much about a candidate through their answer.

Take Care When Answering the Question

A lot of career job search books, guides, and seminars suggest that you take a positive or strong trait and turn/flip it into a weakness.

I think this is a bad idea — if you try and twist a strong point that you have and turn it into a “supposed” weakness, you might create a problem for yourself if the weakness that you mention is a key component of the job. You might end up portraying yourself as someone who deceives, which would lead the interviewer to have a bad impression of you.

Instead, show how you compensated for a weakness. Here’s a good example of how to answer:

Start off with “In the past, I have had trouble establishing priorities and planning,” and at that point, break out a small day planner or a copy of your MS Outlook checklist to explain how you developed a strategy to overcome the weakness. Visual aids are a wonderful thing to use in a interview, but don’t overdo it with the presentation.

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance

Job seekers should take advantage of resources like career centers at their university/alma mater and job clubs, which sometimes provide opportunities for people to participate in mock interviews. See if you can be videotaped so you can study the tape. Even if the thought of this makes you cringe, do it. You can then see where you have flaws in your delivery/style and can make sure that you come across as sincere when answering the question.

Bob TarverBob Tarver is an HR professional with experience in area such as team building, recruitment and staffing, safety, and employee relations. He obtained his M.S. in Human Resources Management from Troy University in 2000 and has held positions ranging from HR Assistant to Regional HR Manager. Bob is currently doing HR consulting with small business owners. He can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Coming tomorrow, a third HR pro weighing in!

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