Jun 05

The dumbest possible interview question

What is your greatest weakness?

Stop wasting your time asking this question.  There is no possible benefit for you as a hiring manager to ask this, and if you think there is, then you need to learn a thing or two about leadership.

1. Everyone knows it’s coming

Search for that question on google and you will find a billion different articles on how to address the question, but in the end, they’re all telling the reader the same thing:  spin your “weakness” so it sounds like a strength.  So if your goal in asking this question was to find out what the candidate needs to work on, you’re not going to get it.

2. You don’t need to know

Are you looking for a candidate based on what they can’t do well?  That’s a terrible strategy for finding top talent.  What you should be looking for are candidates that can meet your needs based on their strengths.  You’re hiring to fill a gap so you can make more money, now go find candidates that can successfully fill that gap.  Let me give you an analogy that maybe makes more sense to you.  Imagine you are looking to fill two slots on your football team.  One is for a lineman and the other is for a quarterback.  The lineman’s weakness is that he can’t throw the ball well and the quarterback’s weakness is that he’s not a good blocker.  Does that matter at all?  Nope.  You’re not hiring the quarterback to block, you’re hiring him to throw the ball.  Does he do that well?  Same with the lineman, he’s never going to throw the ball, but he needs to be able to block.  So can he protect your quarterback?  You should be hiring based on strengths not weaknesses.

3. It’s personal

Frankly, it’s not your business what I think my weaknesses are.  For some people it may be something that they are readily struggling with, and they’re not ready to share that with a stranger.  John Stossel used to stutter and he’s an on camera journalist.  Maybe your candidate was raped, and she’s uncomfortable around men that look like her attacker.  That’s not your business.  Maybe they have some OCD and need their workspace to always be immaculate, or don’t like sharing desks because of it.  Again, not your business.  This question has the potential to drudge up some very personal issues, none of which concern you, and have little to no bearing on the candidate’s ability to perform the job.  Regardless, they’re not going to tell you what their real weakness is because they’re prepared for this question.  It could, however, make them very uncomfortable and send them to another company…potentially to your competitor, to make them money.

4.  It shows a lack of leadership

If you, as a leader, are always focused on what the weaknesses of your team are, then you’re probably a toxic leader.  Maybe you do it to make yourself feel better, because you’re certainly not improving your organization.  People are different.  We are unique, with varying strengths and different leadership styles.  In order to assemble a winning team, you need to find the individual’s strengths and play to them.  Your marketing guy is fun to be around, knows people, and can see the world through the customer perspective.  Your software engineer can create a program in an afternoon, he can scan a line of code and immediately find errors, and he can make the user experience intuitive.  It doesn’t matter that the marketing guy got a C in computer science or that your software engineer can’t talk in public, because that’s not what you need them to do.  If you focus on their weaknesses and ask them to focus on their weaknesses, your team is actually going to get worse.  You should have them focus instead on what they’re good at.  Let your software engineer work on code and your marketing guy meet more customers.  They will both be happier and they will each get better at their respective jobs…making you more money.

So instead of that idiotic question about someone’s weaknesses, how about you ask them what their strengths are?  Or better yet, just have a conversation and get to know them and see how good of a fit they will be in your team and culture.  Unless your goal is to try and throw someone off and approach the interview from a position of power.  In that case, enjoy your business while it lasts, because the good people will go somewhere else.




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Mar 29

Five Reasons to stop and find another headhunter Immediately!

I’ve made it no secret that attempting to get out and find a job without a headhunter is a moronic move.  It’s already incredibly tough when you’re in the marketplace, your resume mirrors job requirements, and you’ve made contacts in the industry (plus you still have a job).  Try and find a job with a military resume, no market knowledge or contacts, and a drop dead date when you will no longer have employment without a recruiter and you are setting yourself up for failure.  That begs another question, however, how do I know my recruiter is any good?  Well, here are 5 things that if your recruiter does, you should probably start looking around for someone else.

1. Requires Exclusivity

If your recruiter is adamant that you cannot work with any other agency and asks you to sign an exclusivity contract, go somewhere else.  A good headhunter knows they are going to find you the best jobs and by allowing you to work with another headhunter, it makes YOU the commodity to be bargained for.  This will push them to listen to YOUR needs and make sure they are delivering what you want so you don’t go with someone else.  These companies that require you to sign exclusively with them for 6 months, when you’re 7 months away from getting out, know that as your ETS date approaches, you’re going to be more willing to accept whatever they throw at you.  They get their commission and you get screwed.  Don’t do it.

2.  Ask You to Pay

Recruiting services should be free to you.  Companies have a need to be met and they are willing to pay for someone to go out there, sift through the tens of thousands of candidates, and return with who will be the best fit.  It saves them thousands of dollars in infrastructure and Human Resource employees to simply outsource the candidate search to a headhunter agency.  I’ve seen offers out there, and even people emailing me about these companies that “help” veterans write resumes, update their LinkedIn, and find them jobs for a price.  Don’t pay for that crap.  Some of the resumes I’ve seen lately coming out of TAPS are decent and your recruiter knows exactly what the industry standard is at the time of your application.  They also know the jobs you’re going to be applying for, so they can guide you through that process.  Save the money and go out on a date with your spouse instead.

3. They don’t care what’s important to you

At the beginning of your relationship with a headhunter, you should have a long phone conversation where the recruiter gets to know you better.  They should have reviewed your resume and provided some feedback, then they are going to take some time to get to know you and what your needs/wants are.  How much do you want to make, where do you want to live, what do you want to do…sound familiar?  Yeah, it’s a lot like the four big questions.  Generally, you all think that when you get out you’re going to double your salary, which you aren’t, so I expect your recruiter is going to tell you that your expectations there are unrealistic.  The rest of those questions, however, are your personal preferences, and if the recruiter is marginalizing what you want or pressuring you to interview for jobs you don’t want, drop them…they don’t have your best interests in mind.

4. They are critical of your background

This one seemed unbelievable to me, but I have heard guys get told they have the wrong MOS/Rate for the civilian world, or their degree is no good.  If your recruiter is trying to talk you into hiding the fact that you were a grunt because of some civilian perception about infantry, drop them.  They won’t be a good advocate for you.

5. They weren’t in the military

There might be a case where using a recruiter that has never been in the military can be beneficial, like someone who specializes in hiring for a field where you have a degree, but generally civilians don’t understand what you have done and therefore can’t translate your skills effectively.  Because I was an Intelligence officer, I can tell you that the job is very similar to Marketing.  The intel analyst has to put himself in the mind of someone from another culture and look at the world through their eyes to make an assessment about what they are going to do.  Marketing is the exact same thing, except instead of making an assessment about the enemy, you’re looking at a product the same way a customer would and determining what actions that customer is going to take.  A civilian will never put those dots together for you, and that means fewer interviews and a lower salary for you.  A civilian also isn’t going to understand that there’s a vast personality difference between a guy that served in Ranger Battalion and another who was a quartermaster.  One isn’t better than the other, it just means that you come from different cultures and may not fit into the same role.

Stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any of these warning signs.  Good luck and God Bless!



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Mar 15

For the love of sheep?

“Tend my sheep.”
-John 21

Ever wonder why there seems to be so much tension between veterans and civilians?

Just scroll through some of the comments posted on “when a civilian says” memes and you will see just how real and deep that tensions run.

I do NOT believe that veterans are the sole party to blame for the rift between veterans and civilians but I will say that I think it is mainly our fault.  Admittedly, I hold veterans to a higher standard.  Maybe I am old school when I think that being a “quiet professional” actually means first being a “professional” at something and you don’t “beat your own chest” and seek out favors, attention, or credit.

The purpose of this post is to challenge veterans to think differently about civilians in general so that you may live among them better and maybe even grow to respect them.  In order to that, I am going to revisit the popular analogy of Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves by LTC Dave Grossman, U.S. Armed (ret), to help make my point.

LTC Grossman describes the average civilian as sheep, military personnel and police officers as sheepdogs, and those that threaten our way of life as wolves. His analogy has turned into a widely embraced description in the Law Enforcement and military communities. Police and Veterans wear the ‘sheepdog’ title like a badge of honor (most of the time, they deserve too).

In an era when ‘over valorizing’ veterans is a legit discussion, it is even more important for us to look a little deeper into this topic. Sheepdogs are, as we all know, a part of the canine family. Which means by simple genetic make up they are more like the wolves than the sheep. They are more like the attacker than they are with the ones they are defending!

So what would be the ‘thing’ that differentiates the two animals? I suggest that the only practical difference is “domestication.” Both dog and wolf might salivate at the sight of a grazing animal and see it as a potential meal but only one will act out on that instinct, the other will deny its carnal desire.

I left the service and went into agriculture as mentioned in earlier blogs. On my small family farm every animal has its place. Each animal serves a specific purpose or it is removed. So, for me, it is very simple. If I have a certain livestock, such as cattle or sheep, on my farm, they are the “producers” that everything else revolves around. Dogs (sheepdogs, canines, etc.) are additions to that “producing” endeavor.  They are a support element, not a ‘”pet.”  All the animals are fed, housed, and loved the same…..for doing different, particular, and necessary jobs.

Protective dogs are intended to watch over the livestock and run off any potential attacker to the herd, flock, or whatever. They are NOT superior in any way (despite my own endearment of them) and they do not have free reign to do as they wish. I am confident that any farmer or rancher would say that he or she would put down “any” dog on their farm that attacked their livestock. It is unacceptable behavior.

Thus, a well domesticated dog, understands its role and place on the farm. That particular dog or dogs has the discipline to resist certain instincts (the same that the wolf has) to harm the ‘sheep.’ To the point where that dog will do battle against the wolves or any other outside animal that threatens the herd.

Military personnel and police offers must realize that we are not above the sheep/civilians we protect. In fact, the opposite is true. They are the ‘thing’ of worth in our country. They are the ‘producers,’ not us. We have a role to play for sure and it is a noble one! We are intended to stop and remove threats so that they can go on producing. Respect their role as much as your own.

As for those of you who are like me, who have left the military or the police force to become civilians yourself; take a second longer to realize that you aren’t in your previous role anymore. Sure, you can talk about your glory days and how you ‘were’ different but your mental energy will probably be better spent getting to know your new family and communicating with them. It is time for you to ‘produce’ something other than ‘defense’ and if you want to do that efficiently then you might want to eat some humble pie and learn from those who have been doing it already.

I would challenge veterans and suggest that if you embrace your new fleece and understand the importance of their role and your new role in our ‘herd of countrymen’ you might actually grow to love them.

As for you civilians who are reading this: manage your expectations of veterans. We will always have a slightly different walk and attitude about us. We are all trying hard to be a part of the fold but it doesn’t always come so naturally for us.

I struggle with loving civilians myself sometimes. But reminding myself of little things like the fact that my wife, daughter, and son are civilians/sheep helps bring it home for me. My wife is tougher than I am in so many ways and I am still proudly learning how to be a better me, from her, to this day.



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Mar 08

Interviewer: “Do you have any questions for us?”

Recently I’ve been applying for new jobs internally and I was talking with one of my mentors about an interview I had coming up.  He’s a former First Sergeant who I can count on being brutally honest with me yet always gives some sage advice.  Because of this, I value his opinion greatly.  He asked me what questions I had for the end of the interview and I told him I didn’t really have any because I already spent 40 minutes on the phone with the hiring manager and he answered all my questions.  “Well, when I interview a candidate and they don’t have any questions, I think they’re an idiot.”  We laughed together and after a bit of ribbing, he dropped some easy yet insightful options that I’m now going to share with you.  So, here are 6 potential questions that you can ask at the end of an interview that will make you stand out as a candidate:

1. What is the first project/effort that you want me to tackle?

Not only does this question make you look like a forward thinking badass, but it also gives you an idea if the job is something you want to do.  It might have some sexy job title, but you find out that for the first 6 months they have a floor full of records that they want you to help digitize.

2. What are some of the Challenges that I might face?

Here you get some insight into the position, and it may open up an opportunity for you to talk about how you might tackle said challenges, further setting you apart in the candidate pool.  Again, the interview is also for you to get more information about the job to determine if it’s something you want to do.

3. Besides the manager, who should I look to for guidance in the role?

You really don’t want to be going to your boss for every question, you also don’t want to ask advice from the wrong person.  This will also help you identify the people who your future boss thinks are doing a good job and surrounding yourself with them.

4. What are you looking for in a candidate?

This is great if you still have some time in the interview.  Listen carefully, then find ways to show how you fit that description.  This is a way of getting the answer to the test, then having an opportunity to reword and present as your own.

5. What are the keys to success in this job?

This is an opportunity to get a candid answer from your next boss on what he/she is looking for, and it will help you understand what you need to focus on as soon as you start the job.  You’re probably going to have a lot to learn, many questions, and maybe little direction about where to start.  With this question, you will know exactly what you need to focus on and if you need training somewhere, what training you need to ensure your success rapidly.

6.  What does a typical day look like?

This last one is just for you.  Don’t let them get away with something like “every day is different”, hit them with a follow up like “well, what are some of the tasks that you have to do every day?”  You might find out right there that this is NOT something you want to be doing for the next several years.

There you go, you’ve now got 6 different questions that you can use at the end of an interview to get a better understanding of the job and make yourself stand out as a candidate, or as my mentor puts it, “Don’t look like an idiot.”



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