One of the most dreaded moments of any interview is when, after you have batted carefully on a difficult pitch elaborating your achievements and strengths in a painstaking manner, the interviewer gives you a strong disapproving look and throws a bouncer, “Tell me about your weaknesses”. Enterprising candidates have been known to come up with clever responses like, “Ummm….er…..my greatest weakness is…..eh….that….I don’t really know about my weaknesses!” Take that!
Imagine the horror of the interviewer when a interview went like this…
Interviewer: “Tell me about your weakness.”
Candidate: “Well…..Sir, I have got weak knees.”
Interviewer: “That’s what I’m asking you. Be specific. What’s your weakness?”
Candidate: “I told you sir. I’ve really got weak knees!”
Interviewer (quite irritated by now): “No..no…you don’t get my point. I want you to listen to my question carefully, think over it and give me a considered reply. WHAT IS YOUR WEAKNESS? Do I make myself clear?
Candidate (thoroughly alarmed): “P..Please believe me sir. I’m telling you the truth. I h..have very weak knees. I…I can show you my weak knees if you wish sir!”
Interviewer (completely blowing his top): “What the @#$%^&! Are you a moron? You want to SHOW me your weakness? Where is it? Inside your jockeys?”
Candidate: (badly shaking by now) “I said weak knees sir….I’ve got weak knees….WEAK KNEES…see here? And…you are b..being very rude and dirty…so @#$% you and your company….huh!”
Well, jokes apart, the question of discussing one’s weaknesses is understandably one of the most critical issues of any job interview. Battle hardened candidates, who have appeared in scores of interviews vouch for the fact that it is only the relatively-new-on-the-job HR guys who put up such a pomp and show of asking about misgivings and weaknesses minutely. Experienced business managers seldom trudge into the ‘weakness’ territory. If you fit the bill otherwise, a good interviewer wouldn’t even dream of asking you this question. Nevertheless, it makes sense to prepare yourself, for you never know what’s on the interviewer’s mind.
First of all, let us try to fathom why an interviewer would want to know about your weakness(es). Assuming the interviewer too is human, it would be his or her foremost concern to find a candidate that fits the job, and not the opposite. To err is human. Most human errors arise out of inherent weaknesses, not strengths. So, it makes sense to understand that awareness of one’s weaknesses is an effective way to cut down on possible errors while at work. In business, errors translate into losses, sometimes running into billions. The recent fire at a petroleum storage terminal in Jaipur, Rajasthan (not very far from where I live), was a result of an avoidable human error. So the hiring manager is well within his limits to seek the strengths and weaknesses of those who would build his future team. Nothing wrong there.
So, what would be an appropriate reply??
Not these, for God’s sake..
1. I am a workaholic (tomorrow, you may become an alcoholic; not my problem)
2. Kindness and simplicity (er…go join Missions of Charity, that’s the place for you)
3. I cannot work in a suffocating environment where everybody plays politics (sorry, we don’t keep oxygen masks here)
4. I’m often jealous with successful people (duh…suicidal; even God can’t save you)
5. Dissatisfaction…even though others look satisfied (O! Our ideas match! Even I am thoroughly dissatisfied!)
6. I work very hard and also I study for 6 – 8 hours a day…(all work and no play makes Jack a dull CRA)
7. My emotions are my weakness (where’s the tissue paper…I feel like crying a bit….sniff…sniff)
8. I have trouble sharing responsibilities with others (and I’ll have delegating responsibility to you)
9. I burn toasts while cooking breakfast (you really need a structured course in cooking..get that first)
10. Weaknesses? I have none. (O! We forgot to tell you…we don’t have any jobs either!)
So? What is to be said?
Without going into the specifics, I can only say that honesty is still the best policy. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t be clever too. The most important thing to be kept in mind while answering this tricky question is one must show an overpowering urge to rectify the mistakes of the past and take concrete steps to turn weaknesses into relative strengths.
1. I am poor at computers, but I am learning fast. I have joined a training Institute.
2. If I’m focused on one subject, I have a habit of missing deadlines on others. But nowadays I am learning to multitask.
3. I have been too much of an optimist in the past. Optimism isn’t bad, but I’m learning to be realistic too.
4. I am told that I’m slow on occasions. But that’s because I care too much for perfection.
5. I am a bit harsh with my subordinates sometimes, but that’s because I want them to excel in their careers (claps! claps!)
These are just a few examples, and I really wish that all of you who read this article come up with appropriate answers in the comments section. I assure you it will be a lively and fruitful discussion if we debate this topic threadbare.