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How to Answer Common and Difficult Interview Questions

Waiting before interview

Waiting before interviewIn this post I want to continue with how to answer common and difficult interview questions.

Specifically, I want to address what many people consider to be the most difficult and tricky interview question:   the dreaded “Tell Me What You Consider to be Your Greatest Weakness” question.

I have to tell you that to me this is actually a pretty ridiculous question.  It tells the Hiring Manager nothing useful about that applicant’s skills, experience or accomplishments.  However, it keeps cropping up in interviews and many Hiring Manager’s will ask it simply to see you handle a question for which there really is no right or wrong answer.  The whole intent is to see how you can handle a tricky, curveball of a question.

So, I’m now going to tell you the secret to answering this question: don’t answer it!  That’s right – don’t fall into the trap of using the worn out strategy of taking something that is generally regarded as a strength and turning it around to state it as a weakness.  An example of this is saying something such as “Everyone tells me that I drive myself too hard.”  Any experienced Hiring Manager knows this is a cliché answer that was obtained from some outdated interview advice article.  They will see right through it.

Okay, so how do you ‘answer it by not answering it’ ?  Well, here’s how I would like someone I was interviewing to answer the question:  “I’m sure we all have aspects of ourselves that we could improve, but the job, as I understand it, plays to my strengths, not my soft spots.  I don’t believe there’s anything in my experience or background that would prevent me from doing an excellent job for you.”

This is a great answer because it acknowledges that you have some soft spots (everyone does) but it takes you out of the “admission” mode and turns the question into an opportunity to sell yourself.

As you can see, you didn’t really answer the question, but instead made a powerful statement about yourself.  You clearly demonstrated you can think on your feet and give an answer that skillfully avoids the trap, instead of the floundering around done by other candidates as they try to answer an impossible question.

I can practically guarantee you’ll be the only candidate that gives an answer like this.  As a Hiring Manager, I’d send taxi cabs for applicants who could give this type of answer!

However, there’s always the chance that you’ll encounter a stubborn, short sighted Hiring Manager that still insists you confess to a weakness (red flag: do you really want to work for someone like this?).  In that case, here’s how I recommend you respond.   Say that at times you try to multi-task too much and take on more things than you can handle in a reasonable time frame, but that you work on keeping this under control by looking for ways to improve your organizational skills.

This admits to a weakness, but also signals that you’re working on improving it.  Next time, we’ll talk about the next two most difficult interview questions you’re likely to encounter.

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