Friday, February 27, 2015

Facing the scariest interview question

During a campus recruiting event I found myself in an interview with a company I admired and wanted to work for. The interview was going great. The conversation was friendly and I was nailing the answers... then the scariest question was asked. 

"What's your greatest weakness?" - Thud! 

I hit the wall here. The interview was all about how awesome I am... What did I say to bring the conversation here? How am I suppose to reply? Do I say something trivial? Do I flip the question and answer with my greatest strength? What is the right answer?

If I say something trivial then I am being dishonest. "My greatest weakness is that I forget to match the color of my belt with my shoes." Okay, so how is that important or relevant to getting me hired. Also, its definitely not my greatest weakness and the interviewer will know I'm making it up.

I know how to take control of this question: "My greatest weakness is that I'm an over achiever and deliver results above and beyond expectations." Yeah! That's the perfect answer. No! No! No! that's a terrible answer. Obviously I'm good, that's why the company brought me in for an interview. Saying that my greatest weakness is that I'm great is just stupid. Anyone can see through the answer. Also this is how people have been taught to answer the question so I loose my advantage of being better than the competition.

Answer honestly. Honesty is the best answer, but only if I've been preparing for months. I'll say that again- Honesty is the best answer only if I've been preparing for months. I think this question gets to the heart of continuous learning. It separates the go getters from the mediocre students with perfect grades. The best answer is that I'm always working on improving myself, at this moment the weakness I'm improving is (fill in the blank with my current weakness being improved). I need to create a habit of evaluating myself and know at any moment what my weaknesses are and my action plan to improve them.

Every company has weaknesses too. Employers need to hire people who can identify weaknesses and create action plans to improve them. Anybody can complain about the company's weaknesses, only self aware, self improving employees will create the plan to fix them.

My greatest weakness

If you asked me 6 months ago what my greatest weakness is, I'd have said that I don't commit to finishing my personal projects. Since then I've taken action to commit to finishing small projects I can complete in an afternoon. Those completed projects are pieces of a larger project I'm on track to complete in the next 8 months. 

Since I now complete my personal projects its no longer my greatest weakness and today my greatest weakness is that I am afraid to speak up in meetings and share my answers. I'm working on improving that by sending my answers in an email to the meeting participants. My response is delayed, but writing down my ideas and sharing them has given me more confidence to speak up. I believe in continuously improving myself and in another 6 months my answer will be different.

-Always leave things better than you found them.