“What’s your greatest weakness?” is one of the most common interview questions out there.
The problem is, hiring managers know that — so they are cleverly figuring out ways to get candidates to answer this question more candidly.
One trick: They are phrasing it differently.
For instance, they might try: “What do you most dislike about yourself?”
This is essentially getting at the same thing, but it might throw you off since you didn’t prepare for this exact question. And thus, you may end up revealing more about yourself than you planned or would have liked to.
James Reed, author of “Why You?: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again,” and chairman of Reed, a top job site in the UK and Europe, calls this question “the evil twin of the more common ‘What are your greatest weaknesses?’ question.”
But he says this one is more personal and “potentially more negative.”
“Why would an interviewer go for this more confrontational wording?” he asks in his book.”It could be with the intention of leading you into revealing deeper and more meaningful flaws, given that most candidates are well prepared for the standard weakness question. Or they might simply be trying to ruffle your feathers to see what happens when someone pushes your buttons.”
Whatever their intention might be, you shouldn’t answer the question as asked, he explains.
“This is an interview, not a session with your shrink, so you can leave the deepest recesses of your soul happily unplumbed. But you have to keep your cool and answer or risk coming across as unable to handle pressure or less than self-aware. Just mentally reframe the question and respond much as you would to any other query or areas in need of improvement. Humanize yourself with a forgivable flaw that doesn’t in any way preclude you from doing well at the job at hand.”
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