I got an interesting question on my busy Ask Dave Taylor blog:
“I had been to ur site, its very useful information u have provided on this site, i want to know if in the interview if they ask u “tell me about you, & your strengths & weakness, how to answer them. pls suggest some tips or examples.”
Now I’m actively resisting being cranky about someone who can’t spend the time to spell out all the words in the interest of clear and accurate communication, but I will say that any email you send to a prospective employer should not be in “text message” format and should be grammatically correct. ‘nuf about that.
The question itself is an interesting one because it points to a dilemma that people have when they’re on a job interview: if someone asks you about your strengths and weaknesses, do you be straightforward and honest, risking sounding like a high risk as a potential employee, or do you tweak your response to come across as honest but still aware that you’re on an interview?
I’m reminded of when a casual friend asks “How ya doing?” because it’s the same dilemma. if you’re not doing well, do you start sharing your troubles with them, or are they really just saying “hi” but aren’t actually interested in what’s going on, just being polite?
Obviously, saying “weakness? I have no weaknesses!” isn’t going to go over well, even if you’re interviewing to join a band of superheroes. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and masking it just makes you see a bit dim. Oh, and a weakness like “I work too much” or “I have no life outside of work and love what I do” can come across a bit sycophantic.
To get more input, I asked a group of colleagues on LinkedIn how they’d address the situation, and here are their answers:
A broad job-interview question like “Tell me about yourself” is an opportunity for a sharp-eared job seeker to learn more about the business pain the job opportunity has been created to remedy. Here’s how that conversation could go:
INTERVIEWER: So, Dave, tell me about yourself.
YOU: I’d love to. Only thing, I don’t want to keep you here until midnight. Okay if I ask you a couple of questions, to tailor my remarks?
YOU: I see that you guys got $5M in funding – congratulations on that, by the way — and so I’d imagine that your life is all about getting your first product to market fast, these days. Is that in the ballpark?
YOU: So, I’m thinking that what’s critical for the Office Manager you hire is for that person to be able to support the product developers, meanwhile managing your execs’ schedules, setting up some business processes that won’t slow the business down, and generally serving as the air traffic controller to keep you guys humming. Is that what you’re thinking also?
INTERVIEWER: I’d have to say dead bullseye.
YOU: In that case, it’s probably most relevant for me to tell you about my experience at Acme Dynamite. When I started there, there were six of us, and Acme had just launched the first rocket-propelled dynamite sled that’s effective against roadrunners. It was absolute chaos, in a good way of course, and so I…..
I say answer honestly without putting yourself down. e.g. My strength is my tenacity and follow through, (give a couple examples). When I overextend this strength, I have in the past created a challenge for myself because ….. (give an example). Then finish off with what I have done about the weakness to minimize it or keep it in the strength range.
Truthfully, I’d almost want to walk out of the interview. It is such a formulaic question I’d be asking myself “do I really want to work for this company/person?” and… well… depending on the amount of chutzpah I’m feeling that day, would probably pointedly say so. If they want a trained circus animal who performs on cue (I mean, you can rehearse the answer to that question ad nauseum), that’s fine; they won’t get me.
Two approaches :
1] Be prepared on what you are going to tell about this question i.e. be real, be original, irrespective of job type and just go for it. For this you need to understand yourself, study yourself.
2] Study what is the requirement / job u are getting interviewed on. If you are very much sure about soft skills related to that position cover them in your answer, along with your original skills. No need to be honest always and everywhere, provided you are able to justify it.
The best thing is to put it in a positive light. For example, “Organization has never been my strong suit, but by recognizing that, I’ve been able to put systems in place so that it’s not a problem.” Don’t try to just rephrase good things: “People say I work too hard, am too thorough and make everyone around me look bad.” Not so good.
Now, dear reader, how would you answer a question like that on an interview?