You are in an interview. You’ve successfully made it past the “tell us about yourself” chat. You hit it out of the park on a few other questions. And then, some variation of this question:
“Tell us about your greatest weaknesses?”
The normal advice is take a strength, frame it as a weakness, and then bring it back to a strength again. Like this:
“Well, I’ve been known to work too hard on my projects to ensure they come in on-time and on-budget. I can’t stand to miss a deadline that I’ve committed to, especially if it would impact the company revenue. The good news is that I’ve never missed a deadline!”
Bam! Out of the park, right?
Let me suggest a much better, more appropriate response to that question:
“That is the dumbest question you can ask me. I know you are fishing for some reason I might fit here, and we both know that everyone is supposed to do the strength-weakness-strength response. But seriously, that is just tacky. How about if we spend time on what I would do in the first 90 days at this job to fit in and make a difference? I’d much rather talk about that.
Okay, I’m sure you aren’t going to respond that way (at least, not out loud). However, if you do, feel free to say “well, Jason Alba, of JibberJobber, said to say this….”
But seriously, here’s the deal: the interview is not a time for you to sit there and answer 15 dumb top interview questions that the interviewer just printed out.
It might take some practice, but you can actually have a bigger influence on the interview. Or, maybe we should call it the conversation.
I know that sounds presumptuous, and it kind of is. But you will melt in with the other wall-flowers if all you do is answer the ill-prepared questions, and not have a real conversation, which is two-way.
How do you do this?
Find someone you can do mock interviews with. This might be an interview coach, or someone at a free resource like a church or state-based job center. Maybe you do it with your mentor, or someone in your industry who is in a lot of interviews. Practice with others, practice on camera (and watch how you did), practice in front of the mirror.
Have YOUR OWN questions ready, and bring them up at the appropriate times.
I’m not suggesting you disrespect the interviewer, and hijack the questions. But you might be able to figure out a way to drive the interview, be way more memorable, give the right impression, and even get information about the role or decision-making process that other interviewees don’t get.
Or, you can just do the cliche strength-weakness-strength thing, like everyone else.
What’s your preference?