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What would you rate as your greatest weaknesses?

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This is a tricky question. Be mindful of what you say. If you admit to a genuine weakness, you will be respected for your honesty, but your resume will end up in the dustbin after the interview!

What would you rate as your greatest weaknesses?

     

This is a tricky question. Be mindful of what you say. If you admit to a genuine weakness, you will be respected for your honesty, but your resume will end up in the dustbin after the interview!

One method is to present a strength as a weakness. You could say something like “I am a little too aggressive when it comes to achieving targets. I have often found that everyone working with me might not be on the same wavelength.” However this is a very commonly used tactic and a seasoned interviewer can see through this.

Another method is to tell the employer that you do not really see any drawback in your background that might affect the job at hand. If you plan to adopt this line, you will again need to do the questions session of the question 1 when you start the interview. Once you know what is required of the job, you can tackle the current question in this way: “Well, no one is perfect, but from what I have learned from you about this job, I should make an excellent candidate. I believe my background shows all the required qualifications for this job, and I also have a track record of excellence in everything I took on. Therefore I can honestly say that there is nothing in my background that should cause you concern…”

On the other hand if you don’t know well enough about the position, you can recount what you like doing best and what you don’t like. Make sure to present this in such a way that what you like matches with what is important for this job, and what you don’t like is not essential. For instance, let us say that you are applying for the position of a customer care executive. You can say that “I really enjoy interacting with people and putting them at ease. It gives me great satisfaction when I can solve the problems and requirements people bring to me… However I must say that I am not a very aggressive person, although I know I can quietly assert myself when needed...” This sounds like the ideal personality for a customer care executive and you will have scored a few good points with the interviewer.

4. Is there something you did- or didn’t do- that you are now somewhat ashamed of? Tell us about one such instance.

Well, this is a personal question, and the interviewer really has no right to ask you this. However you cannot blurt out something like “That is none of your business” and not have disastrous results. Moreover the interviewer might be asking this for a different reason. They are probably checking if you have any serious imbalances in your personal life. It is also possible that they are assessing how you respond to stress.

This question can be tricky for unprepared candidates. Any candid confessions about your personal life can have just one outcome and the obvious one!

As with weaknesses, do not admit to guilt or shame from your personal life. However you have to present an answer that does not appear like stonewalling. For this, you can start with saying that you do not have any regrets, and then follow it up with a small explanation of the principles/ practices that help healthy relationships.

Take a moment’s pause before you answer this question. (This gives the impression that you are searching your memory for some such instance.). Now say that you cannot think of anything of the kind”. Give a pause again and then proceed to state your principles.

” Let me add that I have followed the principle of prevention is better than cure in such matters. At the end of every day and every major event, I pause to reflect and take stock of what happened. I also try to understand what the other people involved with me might be feeling. If I feel that there is something that needs a follow up, I put it to practice immediately. This might be a small chit chat, a few nice words or a pat on the back- whatever it is, I always work to clear up things and avoid misunderstandings”

“Moreover at workplace, I strive to make every member of my team feel important. It is also important for people to know that they are working with an excellent set of people. When people know that you expect nothing short of excellence from them, when you are yourself a model of excellence, and when you are a leader who appreciates and respects each team member’s feelings, you can create a highly motivated team. The team has fun at work as they are working towards excellence….”

5. Why did you leave/ are you leaving your current position?

Be careful not to sound negative while answering this question. Badmouthing your previous/current industry, company, seniors or colleagues is absolutely not done. It will reflect poorly on you more than anyone else.

You may feel that expressions like “personality clash”, “difficulty in getting along” and so on are subtle ways of putting your reasons across, but they sound very suspicious to the interviewer. These are expressions that bring your character and temperament under the question mark.

If you already have a job, you are in a strong position. You are probably looking for better opportunities- you might be looking at more growth potential, a better compensation package or some such prospect. State this honestly and in a positive way. If you have found out what the current job really requires and can match your expectations to these requirements, you will have given the best answer.

Now let us examine the situation if you are without a job at the moment. It is possible that you were fired from your previous position. Hiding this is unethical, and remember that the interviewer can always find out.

However it makes sense to present the firing as something unrelated to you as an individual. You might have been fired because you became redundant due to a takeover, a merger or a downsizing. These are acceptable reasons.

But what matters above all is the way you present this. Explain the event clearly and briefly without a trace of bitterness. You should be able to present things from the point of view of the company and indicate that you could understand it and accept it as a rational decision. This shows that your wounds are healed and that you are a true professional.

It is possible that you have switched jobs several times. For every job change, be ready with a brief reason like better emoluments, responsibility or growth potential.

6. Situation: The interviewer keeps silent after you answer a question. This is also called ?the silent treatment?.

This is not a very common situation. Be prepared for it nevertheless. Unless you are prepared, chances are that you will undo all the good that has been done so far in the interview. The interviewer is obviously trying to see how you respond to stress.

It usually goes like this. You answer a question and then the interviewer just stares at you in silence and does not proceed to the next question. You wait and grow more and more uneasy with each passing second of silence. It feels as if the interviewer doesn?t believe what you said. It might also feel that you have violated some fundamental principle of interview etiquette. It can be all the more frightening if the silence comes after you have answered some very difficult question like a question about your weaknesses.

An unprepared person interprets the silence in the ways described above and rushes in to fill in the void. He or she feels that the interviewer is silently inviting him or her to provide a clarification on the previous answer that has caused some problem. But he or she doesn?t really understand what the mistake was. In the confusion and embarrassment that follows, he or she goes on and on with information, some of which might be irrelevant and even damaging.

First of all, refuse to be intimidated by the silent treatment. The interviewer is just trying to assess your response to stress- be clear on that count. If this situation arises in your interview, just keep calm and quiet for a while. If the silence continues, after a while ask politely ?Is there anything I should add to this?? Take care to avoid any sarcastic tone in your question. Avoid rushing in to fill the silence at all costs

7. Why should we hire you?

This is a very obvious question, but presented as bluntly as that, it can sound very uncomfortable to many candidates. If you stammer or hesitate, be sure that you have blown the interview.

We have already seen how important it is to find out the greatest requirements of the job before you venture to answer the interview questions. If you know the most crucial needs and wants of the job, you can give a very relevant answer to this question and thus place yourself in an advantageous position.

The interviewer may choose to ask this question directly like this or not. But remember that this question is the very essence of the interview. The interviewer must find a convincing answer to this question for him to hire you. Therefore be prepared to help him find the most positive answer. Go through each of the most important wants and needs of the job and show how you are the perfect fit to each of them.

E.g. ?From what I have learned of your needs, you are looking for someone who can take charge of your educational book publishing division. This appears to be your first priority. This is an area where I have considerable experience. I have worked in different areas of educational book publishing for ten years. I believe that I have acquired many valuable things during my experience, including the right principles, methods, as well as some contacts.?

?An important part where you need to work is R&D and content development. I have managed a team of highly qualified researchers and content developers during my earlier stint and this can be an added advantage.?

?I also understand that you have plans of venturing into E-learning in the near future. I have already headed one such project for ---- (mention company name) where I was responsible for setting up their e-learning portal. My own area of expertise is content, but as a manager, I had to co-ordinate a team of web designers, content developers as well as the end users to achieve optimum efficiency of the web site. It was truly path-breaking work and the insights and techniques I learned can be of great use to your upcoming project.?

The more you can bring up such matching pairs of their need- your skill, the more the points you score. This is one single question that can make or mar your interview.

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Posted on: March 26, 2008

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