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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.

 

-LJF

 

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