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So, What's your biggest weakness?
7

So, What's your biggest weakness?

So, What's your biggest weakness?

(OP)
  I have been interviewing for 6 months straight now. I have now determined I have to study-up on the question, "What is your biggest weakness?" from interviewers. I have an interview on Thursday that really has my interest. I have studied their comapany history and the product I will be installing and supporting. The job has my name all over it and I know for a fact that I have a 1 in 5 chance because I asked how many where scheduled for second interviews from the staffing agency. It is a direct-hire position.

  I'm killing myself on this weakness question in every interview. So now I have Googled it, studied it, and for some reason no more wiser on what to say.

Research says:
Don't state a weakeness directly related to the position.
Don't make a joke.
Dont' try a make a strength into a weakness.
etc...

I will try and be honest, but what do you guys see as the correct path for preparedness?

   

Bo  

Remember,
If the women don't find you handsome,
they should at least find you handy.
 (Red Green) www.redgreen.com
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

I have a really good friend who works in HR. Her answer to this was to find something that might be a weakness, and then explain a situation when you exhibited this weakness as a strength.

So, for example.

My weakness is to be overly competetive in situations. WShy. only last month I .... installed something / fixed something.... in much less time than this had previously taken, purely because my boss believed it would take twice as long, and I felt I had to prove I could achieve this.

This is not a great example, but you get my drift.

In fact, the best advice she has ever given me is this:

When you go to an interview, have ready 5 or 6 stories of situations, how you handled them, what was great about them and see these as figurative 6-inch nails. No matter what they ask you about - find a way to hammer at least 5 of these home.

Good luck!

Fee

"The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

I'm with Fee on this one. I give them a former weakness (fear of public speaking), then explain (in detail) how I overcame that perceived weakness (through practice, Toastmasters, etc.).

Follow up with, "As I perceive another shortcoming/weakness, I will design and implement a plan to overcome that weakness, as well."

Quote:

Don't try to make a strength into a weakness
- not sure I buy that, but you can definitely make a former weakness into a current strength.
Good luck with the interview.
 

Greg
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. Kierkegaard

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

The way I last handled that question was to be completely truthful about it.  I gave them a weakness that I acknowledge, and the solution I have found to compensate for it.

For me, I explained that when it comes to user interface, I have difficulty objectively evaluating the design.  What seems intuitive and convenient to me may not seem the same way to the target audience, so I like to have an end-user (or even better, a few end-users) try a mocked-up version of the interface and give me feedback early in the design process whenever possible.  If end-users aren't available, coworkers of similar technical skill levels make a decent substitute.

The way I see it, this shows my honesty in directly answering the question, while at the same time describing a situation where it is very reasonable that most people would have difficulty.  It shows that I acknowledge my limitations and can find ways to work around them.

However, two different interviewers may very well interpret the same answer in two very different ways.  There is no magic "correct every time" answer to any question.  (Aside from maybe saying "No" when they ask if you've been convicted of any felonies, or something like that.  In that case, saying "No, not convicted" is probably not the best choice.)

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Good posts all.  My strategy on that one is similar although I take a perceived weakness of IT folks and talk about my method of overcoming it.  

Specifically I say that I have a tendency to mutate user requirements (because of my vast technical knowledge) into solutions that are more complicated or involved than required for the situation.  I then inform the interviewer that to mitigate this tendency I make it a constant practice to conduct meetings including all users involved in a project to establish expectations.  This practice allows me to match my (again vast) technical knowledge with a system that will be not only useful but easy to use for the client.

I've always found that one to be a winner because it plays up an IT stereotype to which the interviewer normally relates and shows how that perceived shortcoming is overcome while at the same time referring back to your skill set.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

It might help to tell the forum what you perceive your weakness to be and then see if anyone can help develop that into a positive response for your interview.

Paul

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

You could always tell them "Fixating on this question coming up"!

Seriously though, I'm not sure your answer to this question is your stumbling block as much as you worrying about it.  Providing you don't say something that stands out as bad I really can't see it being a deal breaker.  

Do remember though that the interview panel aren't so much interested in your weakness as your awareness of it & how you handle it, and of course, your willingness to accept you have weakness.

I always used to use the fact I get easily bored (I only got into IT because I was bored, so automated everything, so was even more bored!) but I think I've now reached a level where bored is not an option!  I'll probably either use my tendancy to go off at a tangent (I was hugely shocked to find out that others find this quite stimulating, rather than annoying, so the challenge there is to keep the right balance) or how productive I've found I am when I'm forced, against my natural tendancies, into being organised & recording everything.
 

"Your rock is eroding wrong." -Dogbert

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

>your awareness of it & how you handle it,

Exactly so

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

(OP)
  
 Paul,I am far from perfect and sure I have many weaknesses.
 By biggest weakness, that I am aware of is that I get tunnel vision real bad.
  When I have to give an area of a project more attention than planned because of 1. My knowledge short-comings or 2. the software's short-comings and having to find a work around. What happens is I find myself having to double back to areas of the project and doing double work because I got side tracked on one large situation and did not handle the standard situations along the way. This frustartes me and maybe it shouldn't because I feel like I should have known what to do the first time. I like things to flow as smooth as possible and when they don't frustration sets in and can sometimes compound an issue.
   

Bo  

Remember,
If the women don't find you handsome,
they should at least find you handy.
 (Red Green) www.redgreen.com
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

What you say above it very appropriate for an interview, you just need to adapt it a little to avoid negative conotations.  Something like this.

Quote:

By biggest weakness, that I am aware of is that I get tunnel vision at times.
  When I have to give an area of a project more attention than planned because it may be a new area for me or the software has limitations and I'm devising a work around, what happens is I find myself ignoring other areas of the project and focusing on one large situation.  I like things to flow as smooth as possible so having tunnel vision can sometimes interfere with that orderliness.

Just some food for thought.
Good luck tomorrow.

Paul
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

2
My current manager indicated that my response to that question was what got me the job:

Quote (Mufasa):

My greatest weakness stems from my on-going desire to delight my customers...I have a tendency to be a perfectionist, and as a result, I have had to learn to suppress building "the perfect solution" when "good enough" will do.

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
[I provide low-cost, remote Database Administration services: www.dasages.com]
"Beware of those that seek to protect you from harm or risk. The cost will be your freedoms and your liberty."

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

(OP)
Thanks guys for the professional guideance. Paul, I will probably follow your words close to verbatim. I will now spend the rest of my day studying the employer knowing I am prepared for the siliest interview question ever.

 I have also found in my resarch that I posted this same query back in November 07. Some answers were good, while others just poked fun.  thread654-1425939: Listing Weaknesses

 I guess answering this weakness question is a weakness I have been working on. I am taking it serious now and glad you guys did too. Of course Mufasa has been posting on a regular basis for many years and many thanks to the many replies to my threads you have helped with. It looks like we joined tek-tips around the same time.

Bo  

Remember,
If the women don't find you handsome,
they should at least find you handy.
 (Red Green) www.redgreen.com
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Santa,

That would be a good answer for me as well!  I might have to steal that next time I'm in a job interview.  (Hopefully, I won't need one for a long time.)  That is an area where I've struggled in the past.  

It's a difficult dance to know when to do things in the best way possible and when to do them in a less-than-ideal manner because it is more expedient.  I've gotten pretty good at it, but it's still hard to walk away knowing that it could have been done better.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

I like SQLSister's answer in that earlier thread:

"The weakness question is a game, you are never supposed to list genuine weaknesses that are of real concern to an employer. It's a stupid question because it encourages people to lie (or at least misdirect) and the most honest people (who genuinely thoughtfully list their real weaknesses) are often eliminated from consideration."

It makes me think that every once in a while you'd be dealing with someone that, if you call them out on it, would immediately put you first in line for the position.

Something like: "I ran across this question when looking at job search preparation sites, and it was disappointing how many people were trying to game the answers, picking or even making up a weakness that they could portray as a strength. I suppose my weakness would be not going along with that sort of mentality even if doing so is necessary to get ahead."

I know, a person can dream, right?

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

SteveTheGeek,

I   l i i i i i i i i k e    it !

santaMufasa
(aka Dave of Sandy, Utah, USA)
[I provide low-cost, remote Database Administration services: www.dasages.com]
"Beware of those that seek to protect you from harm or risk. The cost will be your freedoms and your liberty."

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Secrecy

------------------------------
An old man tiger who lives in the UK  

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

My GF came up with one that is truthful AND a great answer...

She is a highly task oriented person and can generally do things faster than most people I've ever met. However, she hates admin / filing / paperwork and agrees that in her working life, that is something she cannot avoid.

To turn this weakness around, she makes a task of her admin, gives it a time slot and goes at the task like any other task in her list, aiming to complete it better and faster than anyone else.

She has used this to great success.

Hope it helps someone.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Just in case any reader here is actually interviewing, maybe this thread will encourage potential interviewers to think about their questions, and what sort of answer they elicit from the interviewee.

This question is typical of the sort of interview question you get from reading too many management books while sitting around in airports. What actually do you want to find out? The candidate's strengths, weaknesses, or whether they've read the same book?

No one is seriously going to tell you a real weakness, and if they did, do you really want to reject them on that basis? Does confessing a weakness count them out (bad at time management, sorry old chap!), or does failure to confess a weakness count them out (too smug, can't see his own problem). What do you do if someone says their weakness is a tendency to need the bathroom more than average? More realistically, how are you going to handle it if they say they have always had to struggle with coming from a disadvantaged socio-economic background?

It's also impossible for someone to tell you their true strengths, as they're obliged to search for a "weakness" that can be dressed up as a strength.

At best, this question tells you that the candidate read the book, has asked around for advice on how to evade the question, and is good at evading this sort of question. Do you really want people who can wriggle out of nasty questions? Is that a talent of benefit in this particular post?

Questions that leave the interviewee wondering how to avoid looking smug while also avoiding looking ignorant/weak tell you much more about the smug/ignorance balance point of their culture than they do about the candidate. Some UK people struggle to admit they're "OK at a bit of algebra" when they have a first in mathematics. In some other cultures it's normal to claim expertise if you've had a 30 min training course.

For the interviewee, if you get a question like this, there is only one consolation: the sort of person who asks questions like this had probably decided whether they intend to offer you the job before your bottom hit the seat, let alone before you said anything. And I got that one out of a book on interviewing I read at an airport once.

Rant over, sorry folks.
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

I replied to the weakness question in an interview with something like:

"This sort of question is not proper for an interview such as this. It is appropriate at a slumber party when teenage girls play the game, Truth Or Dare."

I didn't get the job but was told that that was the most creative answer they ever had. And, in a way, they agreed with me. The question is one of those written-in-stone best practices for the HR crowd.

Most of the time, I answer with my problem with procrastination and how I put projects on my calendar to track my progress. This usually works OK.

And, yes, I do have a problem with procrastination. That's why I'm getting around to answering this question from nearly a month ago. snail

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

My greatest weakness is that I tend to get really involved in my work and spend extra hours working on projects without realizing it. smile

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

My weakness is reading tek-tips and getting some great answers.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

My weakness is wanting to have the last word. (Cue childish responses).

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Quote:


My weakness is wanting to have the last word. (Cue childish responses).

Oh ya! We'll see about that. Uh huh! Oh ya!
So's yer old man!

peace

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

(OP)
Great link Riverguy!! And it is from a reputable webiste as well.
It will be printed and studied by me as I continue interviewing.

Bo  

Remember,
If the women don't find you handsome,
they should at least find you handy.
 (Red Green) www.redgreen.com
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

My weakness is Kryptonite.

OK, not really, it's actually silver bullets.  But you didn't REALLY think that I would tell an interviewer my true weakness, did you?  Then they'd know how to stop me.

________________________________________
CompTIA A+, Network+, Server+, Security+
MCTS:Hyper-V
MCTS:System Center Virtual Machine Manager
MCSE:Security 2003
MCITP:Enterprise Administrator  

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Quote (kmcferrin):


My weakness is Kryptonite.

OK, not really, it's actually silver bullets.  But you didn't REALLY think that I would tell an interviewer my true weakness, did you?  Then they'd know how to stop me.

rofl

(HA!  Got the last word!)
 

Just my 2¢

"What the captain doesn't realize is that we've secretly replaced his Dilithium Crystals with new Folger's Crystals."

--Greg  http://parallel.tzo.com
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

... if I didn't really want the job, I'd put on a very thoughtful, slightly-pained, and rather personal-intense face, and say that my weakness is that I don't manage to convey in interviews just how strong a candidate I actually am. Then I'd keep the face very straight and try not to giggle. But that's cos I've got the maturity of Dennis the Menace.
 

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Whenever I've been asked this question in an interview, I've always answered it the same. Which is "one of my biggest weaknesses is knowing when to ask for help, I sometimes get so caught up in resolving an issue that I may not ask for help soon enough and there are times when I may have asked for help too soon." Then I clarify by saying with the advent of the Internet, answers to most problems are there and nobody wants to work with a coworker who doesnt want to find the answers themselves or a coworker who never tries to find the answers.

Also as far as asking those "canned" questions, I never have done that because it is my opinion that an HR type will know when you are asking questions just to be asking.

I generally ask questions about the group I'm going to be working in, number of people in the group and maybe the manager I'd be working for. I once had a placement firm tell me that I needed to target a certain type of company, ie the Fortune 500 because they are "better". I also state a few facts about the company when asking about the department or group I will be working in to let them know that I did my homework. Heck no job at any company is safe anymore, unless its AIG, just kidding. lol

My answer to that has always been I'd rather work at a "bad" company for a good manager with good people and minimal stress than to work at a "good" company work for a "butt hole" of a manager and work with people who I dont like with more stress. I know of quite a few people who work for "major" companies (GE/NYLife/GP/ etc) who hate going to work because they either have a "butt hole" of a manager or they work with someone that rubs them the wrong way or they have alot more stress or all of the above. And in this economy and even for the last 5-10 years, since after the dot com bust, employers know they pretty much have the pick of the litter.

So I've always gone into interviews being myself because alot of times within those first 15-20 minutes of you arriving for that interview, you've already been evaluated by the front desk, heck sometimes they check to see what you came to the interview in, clean car/dirty car/junker/nice car, of course how you dress and within a few minutes of your interview they've already made their decision.

So go be yourself, relax, make good eye contact and the rest will come thru.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Quote:

So I've always gone into interviews being myself because alot of times within those first 15-20 minutes of you arriving for that interview, you've already been evaluated by the front desk, heck sometimes they check to see what you came to the interview in, clean car/dirty car/junker/nice car, of course how you dress and within a few minutes of your interview they've already made their decision.

Excellent points. I once rented a nice car so that I would make a good impression. Now, I make sure that my car is cleaned the day of the interview.

It is important to make a good impression on the person you see first. It's usually a desk clerk but they may have some pull. You are in sales. You are selling yourself. It's important to understand that and prepare appropriately. I always scope out the place first and see how people are dressed and their comportment. I try to match that or be just a tad better.

It's difficult to know what to wear to an interview when many of us no longer where a suit to work. About four years ago I was told to dress casually. I didn't get past the interview because they were all wearing ties. Casual meant something different to them than to me. I wore business slacks with a nice dress shirt and no tie. To them, casual meant to wear a tie but no jacket.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

I have always answered that question with a joke about how my weakness is chocolate chip cookies so keep them away from me.  It always seems to lighten the mood for my real answer plus I've received cookies on my first day at two jobs :)  Maybe next time I should say my weakness is cake...


Stubnski

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Quote:

... if I didn't really want the job, I'd put on a very thoughtful, slightly-pained, and rather personal-intense face, and say that my weakness is that I don't manage to convey in interviews just how strong a candidate I actually am. Then I'd keep the face very straight and try not to giggle. But that's cos I've got the maturity of Dennis the Menace.
If I didn't want the job, my answer would be "Flatulence."  I wouldn't explain or justify, I'd just let the word linger there like... something that lingers.

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Stubnski - That's a great answer! Hava twinkly thing.

Fee

"The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen

RE: So, What's your biggest weakness?

Stubnski:  Funny, definitely funny.

Hey, Fee got the last word!

Oh... wait... scratch that.  rofl

 

Just my 2¢

"What the captain doesn't realize is that we've secretly replaced his Dilithium Crystals with new Folger's Crystals."

--Greg  http://parallel.tzo.com
 

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