A weak question…

question mark
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It is occasionally suggested for interviews…”What is your greatest weakness?”

I occasionally sit in on job interview or performance review panels as well as having been subject to my own annual performance reviews. I am glad, for the right reasons, that this question never arises. It seems to appear frequently in interview guides, however.

My answer, if asked, would be “The ability to see the hidden agenda behind such a question and play it to my advantage.” Some would see that as a strength, not a weakness. If you’re looking for solid, open and honest teamwork, however, the question sets both the interview panel and candidate/colleague up for something less than the team can be.

What is the purpose of the question? If to encourage improved performance there are a range of more collaborative questions that lead to goal setting, skill  acquisition and self-management.

It is a lazy question – best crossed out of the HR literature.

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

3 thoughts on “A weak question…

  1. It comes from a SWOT analysis process. We should all know our own Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Perhaps because I am in the business of SWOT analysis, I never see the question as a problem. It SHOULD always be balanced with the question of what are your strengths, of course! I know what my weakness is, professionally: I don’t suffer fools gladly. In my job, this is a weakness and I need to be aware of it and ensure I manage it.

    Mind you, I haven’t been asked it in a long time – perhaps it has lost popularity!


  2. I guess the context suggests the usefulness of the question. SWOT is a great process for analysis of a project or even post interview/review. A face to face interview requires something a little more creative, I think, to take account of the “hot seat” syndrome. My weakness is complex – it has to do with ambivalence to authority – my own and others – overcompensating one way or the other. If asked about my weakness in an interview/review, enlightened self-interest might require that I disguise it somehow or cast it in a light that is favorable to me. If it is framed in a way that asks me what is my current most significant challenge, I will be less defensive in my response. Then I assume what is true of me will be so for others when they are under the bright light.
    BTW, how is my weakness most often expressed? “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission” – it gets things done ten timers faster, but cheeses off a few people 🙂


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