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Please God, Let Them Stop Asking “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”​

Source | LinkedIn : By Liz Ryan

MONICA: Liz, I love your advice and as an HR person I’ve put several of your ideas into practice. Still, I have to ask you — why do you hate the interview question “What’s your greatest weakness?”

LIZ: Let’s go in the opposite direction. Why do you like that question?

MONICA: Because it’s revealing. It tells me whether a job applicant knows themselves or not.

LIZ: Is it important for a job applicant to ‘know themselves’ in the way you describe?

MONICA: I think it is! I think everybody should know themselves.

LIZ: Do you believe that everyone has weaknesses?

MONICA: Of course! Everyone does have weaknesses — after all, no one is perfect.

LIZ: How would you feel if a job applicant asked you “What’s your greatest weakness, Monica?”

MONICA: I wouldn’t like it if a job applicant asked me that question, because I’m the interviewer. If I were interviewing for a job, I’d happily answer the question.

LIZ: So you believe that employers sit on a higher plane than job-seekers do?

MONICA: Well, I mean, yes — the employer has the big decision to make – Which candidate should I hire?

LIZ: Really? The employer is only hiring one new person. They already have a bunch of employees on the team. In the whole scheme of things, one new hire is a fairly small decision. The job-seeker has the really big decision to make. Are these the right people for me to work with?

When someone takes a new job, it affects their brand forever. The job will impact their resume and their self-esteem, their relationships and even their health. Taking a job or turning a job down is a huge life decision. Why do you say that the employer has the bigger decision to make?

MONICA: Because we have to assume logically that if the applicant didn’t want the job, they wouldn’t have come to the interview.

LIZ: By that logic we would also conclude that the interviewer wouldn’t have come to the interview if they weren’t ready to hire the applicant. The candidate showed up to learn more — the same way you scheduled the interview to learn more about him or her. It’s a false assumption that people who go to job interviews already know they want the job.

MONICA: Okay, I’ll give you that one. I still think the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” is valid. What do you hate about it?

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