Re: Responding to biggest weakness question in interview

Subject: Re: Responding to biggest weakness question in interview
From: Jim Purcell <jimpur -at- MICROSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 1997 10:50:33 -0800

I'm not sure that it's possible to present a weakness as a strength,
unless you go the B.S. route and describe a weakness along the lines of
"I just can't go home until I have seen the job through" or "I always
try to make up for the weaker team members." A person who would ask the
question will readily see through answers like these.

The biggest weakness question is unfair, and it's reasonable of the
interviewee to wonder what it would be like to work for the person who
asks it. The interviewee will nearly always (and probably rightly) hear
this question as, "Give me a reason not to hire you." Why should I do
that? Why would you ask me to?

If you're intent on having the right of refusal, though, a demurrer is a
good opening gambit. "I am not the best judge of my own weaknesses, so I
find this a difficult question. If you ask my boss or my colleagues,
they may have other ideas. If I get the job, you may find that you have
other ideas. In my current job, the areas I am trying to improve are
[insert actual performance objectives here]. Here's what I'm doing to be
better. [Insert actual work items here--coursework, mentoring,
whatever.]" Such an answer is responsive, but it leaves the interviewer
reflecting on your enterprise and professionalism rather than on the
thing you're not so good at.

Jim Purcell
jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com
My opinions, not Microsoft's

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