Lindsay Olson

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“What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” and Other Hard-to-Answer Interview Questions

Question mark in Esbjerg
You know it’s coming. The dreaded interview question.

“What’s your greatest weakness? or “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Questions like these set you up to be tongue tied. How can you answer them and seem like you’re giving a true-to-self answer, while still pleasing your interviewer?

One thing to note: questions like these are often asked by untrained interviewer. It’s a typical question that usually generates a typical response. It’s easy to say that your greatest weakness is being a perfectionist, or wanting to take on too many projects at once. Isn’t that the answer that the hiring manager wants to hear? Not always.

How do you answer these questions other than to give the interviewer what you think she wants to hear?

Go Into Your Interview Armed with Answers

If you know what to expect in terms of questions, you’ll be less likely to draw a blank for an answer. Read up on the most commonly asked interview questions so you know what to expect. Then, before your interview, sit down and consider how you would answer some of the commonly asked questions (even the dumb ones). Practice your answers in front of a mirror. Aim to make eye contact and be confident in your answer. Repeat this until you stop laughing at yourself!

Aim for the Diplomatic Truth

Sure, you may be applying for a job simply because you need a job, but that’s probably not the answer that will get you hired. Find a better way to word the truth.

Why are you interested in our company?

The truth: They pay well and have a killer bonus structure.

The better truth: Explain that you’re looking to expand your experience. You like the structure. You feel it’s a place where you can help make a difference and find that your core values align with theirs (make sure you know their core values and you’ve read their mission statement!).

What did you leave your last job?

The truth: Your boss had it in for you.

The better truth: You were ready for a new opportunity that would allow you to grow.

What’s your greatest weakness?

The truth: You have none! Of course….

The better truth: Be honest. Pick your true weakness, but be ready to show how you have worked to improve it and how it can also be a strength. Maybe it’s that it’s hard for you to delegate, or the fact that you’re no good at multitasking (that’s actually not a weakness, despite what employers would have you believe). Shape your answer so that the hiring manager sees that you are aware of a weakness, but are ready to make it work for you.

Realize that the interviewer may be trying to bait you to see if you’ll talk negatively about a former employer. Don’t fall for it. Never show your emotion or frustration for a previous employer in an interview.

Also, an employer might present these difficult questions simply to see if you have a realistic sense of self. Telling them with what they want to hear may not score you points. Be true to yourself and don’t pigeonhole yourself into a place you don’t want to be in. If you get the job, you certainly don’t want to have presented yourself falsely in the interview.

Photo credit: Alexander Drachmann


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