“What are your strengths?” Swiftly followed by, “What are your weaknesses?” Well gosh, here I am sitting in a job interview and didn’t see the most over-asked question of all time coming my way. That’s what I sarcastically (and internally) sigh every single time I hear a colleague ask this question, and how I have felt in the past when being interviewed myself. So let’s burrow into the weaknesses festering in most job interviews, shall we?


Real Tweets, Real Weird Job Interviews
@AllDesignPrint: I was asked, "If you could be an animal, what would it be?" I replied, "What sort of a stupid question is that?" Didn't get the job.


1. The Boring, Predictable Questions

It is not that the “strengths and weaknesses” question is bad per se. It’s just predictable and boring, and it’s not #HowIHire (a hashtag that’s doing the rounds on LinkedIn at the moment). You are likely be met by a weakness dressed up as a strength (“I am a workaholic”) or the arrogant-sounding (“I don’t suffer fools”). Meanwhile, gulping “I struggle with managing my time” is not going to get you a job as a project manager, so unless you are a card-carrying moron, you are unlikely to answer honestly.

If I want to get a good feel of a candidate — let’s call him Colin — I often throw this into the mix: “If I asked your wife / boss / colleague what Colin is like, what would they say?”

With this question you are more likely to get a more authentic response. But don’t leave it at that. Next, you need to probe and funnel down to get to the real answer. As with most great conversations, your first question just pecks the surface and generally gets a surface reply. It’s your follow-up question that helps you dig up the real dirt.

That is why you should then ask, “So Colin, what makes them think that about you? Give me an example of how you have demonstrated that behaviour. Is it a behaviour that you are proud of? Would you change that behaviour in any way? Have you ever been criticised for that character trait? By whom, and what was the situation?” And so on.

Dig, dig, dig. It is only by unearthing these details that you can really start to get a feel for what your potential new hire is really like.


Real Tweets, Real Weird Job Interviews

@sesp: I panicked when asked for my biggest weakness. Told them it was a "vague but common feeling of melancholy". Got the job.


2. The One-Sided Interview

Many candidates prepare to answer questions but fail to understand that part of the process is as much about them asking questions. Asking questions does something very important — it show the interviewer that you are evaluating the company in a number of ways by the questions you ask. At the same time you are confirming your qualifications for the role in the eyes of the interviewer.

Most importantly, it shows you care. Have you ever been on a date where you have been the only one asking questions, and when you stop asking, a limp puddle of silence is all that remains? We all have. And did you go on a second date with that person? I think not.


Real Tweets, Real Weird Job Interviews

@houseoflard: At the end of an interview for a promotion I was asked if I had any questions. I said, "When do I start?" Failed.


3. The Disrespectful Interviewer

I think one of the worst offenses you can commit when being an interviewer is to not have read the CV prior to the interview. You know how it goes: you walk in, the interviewer looks down and starts to ask you the questions that are blatantly staring out at him from the CV.

But would you expect a candidate to ask, “So can you tell me about the job you are hiring for?” Nope. So why is it okay to ask the candidate questions that you are expecting the interviewer to already know?


Real Tweets, Real Weird Job Interviews
@matbeal: My favourite was a friend who was asked what her weaknesses were.
She replied, "Jazz hands!" (With accompanying gesture.)


Final Thoughts
You might think all this harps on a bit, but if you get the job interview process right, you know you are bringing the right new player onto your team. Get it wrong, and you may add a weakness to your company.

In some ways, of course, many people feel hiring is instinctual. In fact, a survey of 2,000 hiring managers found that 33% of them decide whether or not to hire someone in the first 90 seconds. How you sit, smile, move, dress — heck, the energy you project — can all be the deciding factor. So clean up for your interview, boys and girls.


Real Tweets, Real Weird Job Interviews

@redskyatnight: I once confidently told an interviewer that I'd read a book he'd mentioned. He pointed out it hadn't been published yet. Or even written.

@jhedelstein: The interviewer wrote my name at top of a notebook page. Took no notes. Halfway through, crossed my name out.

@KennoUK: Absent-mindedly twirling my pen around, I got the ends mixed up and drew a fake beard on myself while asking questions.


3 Ways to Self-Sabotage a Job Interview (and How to Avoid Them)

BY Ellen Bone

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