Job Interviews; Know Your Lines


If you’ve ever done any community theatre, film or television work, you’ll know then at some point the Director tells the cast to be, ‘off book’. This means you’ve got a target date to have memorized your lines. From that point on, you can’t carry around the script with you on stage or in front of the camera. If you need help with what you’re supposed to say at any point, you just say, “Line?”, and someone who is following along off stage or set will give you a prompt. Eventually, the Director will go further too, cutting off the prompts altogether, so if you don’t know your words at that point, you’re on your own.

Job interviews however, don’t work that way. First of all, memorizing specific answers word for word has never been advised. Let me correct that; somewhere, someone I’m sure has dispensed that advice, but please, don’t try to memorize your answers to questions you presume you may be asked. This is a bad strategy, in fact it’s one of the biggest critical mistakes you could make in preparation for employment interviews!

On the other hand, don’t go to the other extreme, (which many people do I’m afraid to say) and just plan on, ‘winging it’. Making everything up on the fly, in the moment, with no advanced preparation at all is setting yourself up to be exposed as ill-prepared and you’ll eventually find yourself growing increasingly anxious and embarrassed as it becomes clear you weren’t ready for it.

What you’re really going for is to come across as authentic and genuine, answering questions put to you with confidence and intelligence. In order to do so, you need an understanding of the position you’re after, how it fits in to the organization you’re applying with, and the ability to market your skills, experience, education and personal suitability as THE right person to be hired. If you can successful communicate this, you’re well on your way to making the best possible impression you can and landing an eventual offer.

One obvious suggestion is to do some research. Now I bet you’ve heard this before, but perhaps you haven’t really understood what it is you should be researching. Sure you should visit a website, (it is 2017 after all) and click on the, “About Us” tab. That’s a start. In the days before the internet, many job applicants would drop by an organization well in advance of a job interview and pick up brochures, financial and Annual reports. These are still largely available for the asking, and in some situations it’s a great idea to pop ’round and pick them up, with the added benefit they get to see you and you them, you get an idea of the atmosphere, how employees dress etc.

Accessing LinkedIn information is another source for this research. Research not just the company but the people with profiles who work at the organizations you’ve short-listed yourself as possible destinations. What’s their backgrounds and what routes did they take to get where they are now? How are they going about branding themselves? What have they got to say in terms of their current position? How are they dressed for their LinkedIn image?

Now all this is good but back to knowing your lines. In a play the beautiful thing is that at the first rehearsal you’re handed the script. You not only know what you have to say, you know what everyone has to say! No job interview however works this way and that’s actually a good thing. So lose the anxiety over trying to memorize answers.

You do need something to hang on to that gives you some structure and some reassurance. You can get this by looking at a job posting, networking with people who work where you want to work or those who hold down similar jobs to the one you’re after now; ideally all the above. Job postings highlight what you’ll be doing, the qualifications employers demand and often who you’ll be reporting to.

Knowing what they expect you to do should give you an idea what they’ll ask you about. It’s likely your experience will come up as they seek to see if you’ve got the skills, which come out as you relate what you’ve done in the past. Using skill-based language therefore, (I listened, I resolved conflict, I negotiated contracts, I led project teams) that mirrors their current needs will prove helpful.

An interview format will surround the content of your answers with structure and this structure ensures you’re focused and only say enough to answer the questions without running off at the mouth. Not always, but if you look at a company’s pages, you might even find information on how to prepare for interviews with them. As they want to see you at your best and make good hiring decisions, they often don’t mind sharing interview preparation information. It’s there for the looking.

So, get off book before the interview. Know what you want to say and what you want to stress. Deliver your words with confidence and certainty but at the same time by all means reflect on questions asked to compose the best answers. During this conversation with the interviewer(s), have a few thoughtful questions of your own that show you’ve given some thought. And like the best actors, be memorable!

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What It Means To Learn A New Skill


At some point, all those who share what they know with others will discern those who have truly learned the new skill and those who have not. I experience this as I go about my work, and I suspect others do as well; namely Teachers, Instructors, Facilitators and Mentors. Of course you don’t need the title to teach and lead, but those in these professions spend much of their time imparting what they know to their audiences.

No matter the setting, the best way to assess if someone has learned a skill is to see if they take what they’ve had shared with them and use that new-found skill on their own as it was shared with them. So an Instructor may share the same information with 10 people and later find that only 4 of the 10 are actually capable of implementing what they’ve learned. As for the remaining 6, it may be that they get a general idea, but try as they may, they just can’t – on their own – take what was shared with them and merge it into whatever it is they are working on.

Several factors may be at play here. Learning styles for one is important for anyone imparting knowledge as well as for the learner themselves to recognize. So while one person may learn from simply being told how to do something new, another might learn best from actually seeing it done, and yet another might learn better by being given the opportunity to do it themselves under a watchful eye. Where the person imparting the knowledge has the time to find the various learning styles of those they are teaching and can reinforce their content with multiple delivery styles, so much the better.

Of course the degree to which one is open and receptive to learning something new is perhaps the single most critical factor of all. When someone is closed to learning, stubbornly refusing to make an effort, or is just present out of necessity not interest, no amount of effort on the part of an instructor will succeed. At some point, for true learning to occur, the student has to see some potential value in the lesson, the worker has to realize the importance of getting onboard with whatever is before them.

Have you ever experienced this yourself? Perhaps in the workplace you are sent along with everyone else for some mandatory training. You look around and you can pick up from the body language of your peers who is engaged and who has mentally checked out. Someone appears to be texting, or making too many frequent exits and entrances apparently having suddenly developed a need to use the washroom again and again. Or you get the slight head shake, the smirk that seems to say, “This is a complete waste of time, I have work to do back at my desk.”

However, even when someone commits to learning because they understand the benefit to doing something a new way, learning can still not occur. It may be that they need to do the new technique themselves several times to gain self-confidence and in the repetitiveness of the newly learned skill, they come to master it over time. Too, it could be that while receptive, they just don’t grasp one or more of the sequential steps which is necessary to achieving the desired result. So in a 10 step process utilizing some new software, miss any single step and you’ll not be able to complete the process. The outcome won’t results in whatever you were trying to do. You’ll have to go back and find out what you skipped, or perhaps what you now have to undo before you can start anew.

Learning is more than just sitting and listening. In the workplace as in school classrooms, it’s about receiving the new information and then internalizing it, processing what’s been shared with you and then owning it; being able to apply it for yourself. So whether it’s how to write an effective cover letter, implementing a new software program, working on a new team in an assembly line or learning a new language, the process is the same.

It is essential then that you come to understand your own learning style. Do you learn best when being given something to read, watching a demonstration live before you, doing something yourself under a watchful eye, or maybe even all three? Are you generally the kind of person that learns things quickly, maybe even the first time you are introduced to something new? Conversely, does it seem to take you a little or a lot longer than others to grasp new information before you feel entirely confident.

This is significant information to know. There’s no point putting on your résumé that you learn quickly if you generally don’t. To do so only sets you up for failure or setbacks at the least. Any company hiring you under such an impression will only expect you to live up to your word, and you could end up out of work altogether if they just don’t have the time to invest in your training if it proves to be lengthier than they are ready to offer.

The best who instruct use a variety of stimuli; handouts for readers, videos and auditory presentations for visual learners, and time to practice the new learning either in a controlled environment or on the job.

Learning new skills keeps us vibrant and relevant.

So You Want To Help People?


The majority of people I come into contact with professionally have as one common denominator, the lack of employment. Those that do have a job are almost always dissatisfied with the one they have at the moment and are looking to find another; one that will ultimately bring they greater happiness, be more of a challenge, stimulate some new skills, increase their financial health etc.

As an Employment Counsellor therefore, I find myself working with others when they are often vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Sometimes the good skills and strengths they have are obscured, not immediately obvious, and this isn’t because the person is consciously trying to hide them, but rather because they have come to doubt those strengths.

In asking someone to both show and share their good qualities, strengths and that which they take pride in, it can be a very intimate discussion. While a person who has only recently become unemployed has much of their confidence and self-awareness intact, someone experiencing prolonged unemployment may feel very little to be proud of. In fact, there are some who, while looking ‘normal’ on the outside, are walking around feeling they are completely devoid of anything of any value. Sad to say, they cannot think of anything whatsoever they like about themselves, they have no faith that anyone would ever choose to hire them, and this isn’t modesty in the extreme, it’s a void of identity.

So imagine you’ve come to find yourself as such a person. You honestly see nothing in yourself that would be attractive to a perspective employer. Skills, mental health, self-confidence, experience, education, attitude all empty and wanting; doubt, lack of self-worth, zero energy, high vulnerability all in great supply. Now you hear others advising you to market yourself to employers, to ‘fake it ’til you make it’, and you just feel so much more out of sorts and incapable. You’re literally incapable and immobile. There’s no way you can do that; you can’t even imagine yourself for a second ever being what your being asked to be. The interview therefore is a non-starter. There’s just no way you can perceive self-marketing yourself and being the first choice of any employer over others.

Let’s not delude ourselves here; helping and supporting such people is no small undertaking and it’s going to take a significant amount of time to aid such a person as they rebuild their self-image. Incapacitated is how they feel, not belligerent nor unwilling, just not physically or mentally capable of doing anything in the beginning to get going.

Can you also imagine therefore in such a picture which I’m trying to create for you, that such a person is going to have many setbacks? Sure they are. There will be many false starts; where they agree to try something you’ve suggested and fail. Where they lack the skills you and I might assume they have to circumnavigate even the simplest of barriers. Good intentions get them going, but without support they fail to move ahead. In fact, small setbacks become magnified in their eyes and thinking; more reasons to feel a failure.

A real danger is to look from the outside at such a person and judge them to be lazy, improperly motivated, unwilling to move ahead, happy to stay where they are and heaven forbid – not worth the effort. These are people who are susceptible to scams, vulnerable to being misled, easily taken advantage of – largely because they have come to look for others to tell them what to do and take care of them, and as such they are often abused financially, emotionally; and each abuse makes their distrust of someone with the best of intentions all the more real.

Wow! Helping such a person seems to get harder and harder with every paragraph I write. Think of the investment of time, effort and with such a high probability of failure, are you up for the challenge? After all, why not turn your attention to helping other people who have higher probabilities of success? That would seem so much easier!

I tell you this; there is immense self-satisfaction in working with people who are so innately vulnerable. Seeing the good in people; not for what they might become but for who they are at the moment – this is often extremely challenging but so worthwhile. It’s like saying, “Until you have the ability to believe in yourself, accept that I see much of value in you; that I believe in you.” Sending that kind of message, that this person is deserving of your attention and your time is something to start with.

You might not of course have what it takes to help such people. This doesn’t make you a bad person or flawed in any way. It just means your wish to help people lies in other areas, helping in other ways with other issues. You’ll make mistakes as you go and that’s to be expected and natural. You’ll make mistakes after years of service too, and you’ll always keep learning from those you work with who are unique from every other person you meet. You’ll never get so good you’re perfect for everybody you meet.

It’s been said that Hope is the last thing one has to lose; that when all Hope is gone, there’s nothing left. Now what if in their eyes, you represent that final Hope?

Managers


In your organization, in your workplace, you’ve undoubtedly got people in positions of authority; charged with supervising others. Are they putting in the effort to lead, inspire, motivate and mentor or are they putting in time?

I suppose if you’re fortunate, you’ve got a Manager whose style and substance is a good match for what fits with your own expectations. So if you thrive on a hands-off environment and you’ve got a person in the management role who largely leaves you alone to carry out your work, you both win. On the other hand, if that’s your preferred working style and you end up with an immediate Supervisor who micro-manages, the fit won’t work for either of you, and something has to give. Recognize that neither is implicitly wrong, but the two contrasting styles don’t compliment each other and there will be problems.

So unless you’re working as an entrepreneur and running your own business with no other employees, this issue of leadership is vitally important to all who work in organizations. There’s two sides to this equation, the needs of the employees and the need of the Manager. Not only do both have needs but both have responsibilities. While it’s easier to see the Manager pointing out the responsibilities of the employees they supervise, it’s not so easy to see the employees getting together to point out the responsibilities of the Manager to lead them.

Nonetheless, Managers, when acting as a collective Management team, have a critically vital role in organizations; setting the tone and atmosphere in which employees work, leading by example and ensuring that the activities of their staff and how they go about those activities works towards common organizational goals.

It’s interesting though isn’t it; this distinction of the two roles. I mean while they are both people, the one has the right to walk in unannounced and say, “So how’s it going? What are you working on? Let me see how you go about your day.” I rather doubt most employees would experience a comfort level in doing any of the three with their own Supervisor.

The best kind of Supervisor perhaps is the person who aspires to inspire; the one who said at some point, “I want to be the kind of Supervisor who works to bring out the individual talents of those on my team.” Of course, it largely depends on the organization you work with, the structure that exists, the ideal atmosphere and the directives the Supervisors themselves get from their own leaders. Could be the best kind of Supervisor in some environments are those who crack the whip, who accept nothing less than superior performance, who watch performance and push for better results and more profitability.

Now if you’re in Management you might feel you finally have the authority and power to bring about the chemistry and ideals you place in high regard. However, just as you feel you’re in a place to make changes, you find yourself inundated with reports, projects and meetings you didn’t expect. Your time is now consumed with new responsibilities and the people you supervise are suddenly working independent of your leadership it seems except for those scheduled team meetings. This isn’t how you pictured things.

As an employee, you have to decide what you need in a supervisor too. Are you new and need the guidance and tutelage of a hands-on Boss who can correct, praise, instruct and approve? Are you looking for a leader who will recognize your lengthy years of service and your strong performance and give you the latitude to do your thing and check with you from time to time? Or have you plateaued, there’s little that you do voluntarily anymore, and you’d love to hide right out in the open and the kind of Boss who would let these things go unnoticed would be ideal?

Different people both want and need different kinds of leaders. Sometimes what they need isn’t what they want and conversely what they want isn’t what they need. How many times though does a Supervisor sit down with their team and say, “Okay, let’s talk about what you each need and what you all need collectively as a team?” Assuming this did happen, how honest would you be, how well would you know your own needs if asked, and how likely would your current Supervisor be to receive all that feedback and then, most importantly, do something positive with the information received?

There’s a vulnerability in this process of asking for that kind of response. There’s little value in seeking honest comments if people are closed to change and adaptation. What you might need or ask for may not be possible to give too, and it could be that what you ask for might indeed be available in another person but not the one charged with you on their team. So is it time for change – not with them, but rather you?

Managers manage people, and an office and name plate don’t guarantee that they’ll be good Managers. Some are only concerned with the title, the income, the prestige, the authority or power. Some are reclusive, some like the closed-door, the, ‘knock and wait until you have permission to enter’ philosophy. Others mentor, critique privately and praise publicly.

What do you need? What will you contribute? What will inspire your best?

 

 

 

Sharing My Job Search Kit


This particular post I am sharing has two intended audiences; you the person looking for a job and my fellow Employment Counsellors. Should you aid and coach others to find and keep employment and go by some other title, this too is for you.

You may have heard me mention every so often in the blogs I’ve shared over the years that one of the workshops I facilitate every couple of month’s is an intensive job search group held over a two-week period. It’s name is Worksmart, and today I’d thought I’d share the contents of what participants receive upon entering the room. It’s a kit you see; full of items to be used in organizing one’s job search and looking professional while doing it. I do this in the interest of sharing resources, and you in turn are encouraged to comment on what you give should you wish to do so, or consider providing some of these to those you help at your discretion. Sharing I believe, is how we enrich each other.

The kit includes a large black leatherette folder, which comes with a pen and lined paper. It is in this folder that one can put multiple copies of their résumé, the job posting, cover letter, thank you cards, notepad, cue cards, etc. all making an immediate visual 1st impression on the interviewer(s) of someone who is organized, ready and taking this interview seriously. So instead of a candidate just stating they are organized, those I work with can both claim it and prove it without having uttered a word. The message sent is, “If I’m this organized in my job search, this will carry over into all the work I do when employed with you.”

The Thank You cards are blank inside with a simple, “Thank You” on the front. Each person is issued 5 cards and 5 envelopes on day 1, and encouraged to give these not only to job interviewers at the end of a job interview, but also to any and all who support and encourage them in their job search journey. So they might give them to those who stand as their references, with whom they network, recent teachers or educators, former Supervisors or Co-workers they had excellent working relationships with; anyone in fact who plays a part in helping them.

The cue cards are used as a safety net, providing reassurance to the applicant in an interview that should they blank out during a question they can glance quickly down and recall from a key word, something important, such as their strengths. These can also be used to compose questions to be asked at some point, thus eliminating that problem of leaving the building after an interview and suddenly recalling something important you’d meant to ask or point out.

There is a package of tissues, good for wiping sweaty hands, blowing the nose, lipstick or makeup repair, even curtailing bleeding from a shave prior to an interview.

For oral care, there’s a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. Sometimes a person in my group will have a Caesar salad for lunch and then get a call inviting them to an interview within an hour or so, and brushing the teeth is essential to maintaining self-confidence, knowing your breath is fresh and no lettuce is wedged in your front teeth!

Also there are two smaller folders, both with paper and pen, useful if going not to an interview but to a networking meeting or presentation where note taking will occur but a smaller folder is ideal. I include a highlighter too – and yellow specifically – for highlighting key words in job postings which I insist they do. By stressing the importance of highlighting key words and phrases, I can see if they miss essential things to be included in targeted resumes and cover letters, or whether they have this skill. Yellow I find, pops!

I also include a tri-page folder of what the Worksmart program is all about including some quotes from past participants (names removed for confidentiality). This folder is ideal for sharing with family and friends who don’t understand why their job seeking friend is in ‘wasting time in a classroom instead of out there looking for a job.

You’ll see perhaps in the photo there’s a cookbook. What’s with that? Well, good food is critical to keeping up the stamina for a prolonged job search, and this cookbook is for people on a budget. Besides, there’s always room for food!

The ear buds in the photo are included for those completing online work where watching an instructional video is a welcomed break from other activities or doing an online test/application.

What you can’t see in the photo is the USB flashstick with 81 electronic files each participant receives to keep. It has job search tracking and references sheets, interview tips, files to insert their resumes and cover letters,  plus a lot of solid general information. Every handout and worksheet they’ll receive is included, as are most flip charts used in the class.

So there you have it. There’s even a canvas bag for holding it all which is great for inclement weather. As good and useful as it is, I admit I’m always searching for other items and tinker with the contents. That tinkering keeps me motivated and engaged too. So if you’ve got a suggestion I’d absolutely LOVE to hear what you’d like to see or what you give yourself to those you work with!

You Can’t Win The Race From The Sidelines


Bad news, unfortunate circumstances, poor luck, worries, stresses, pains and LIFE; all reasons for putting off looking for work. Might as well add in low self-esteem, anxiety, an unreal perception of one’s reality, lack of motivation, money in the bank, a dependency on others or possibly contentment. Yes there are many reasons why people – perhaps you? would put off looking for employment.

By the term, ‘looking for employment’, I mean really looking for work. Casually glancing at want ads for three or four minutes a day isn’t job searching so let’s not delude one another. Looking for work these days – as has always been the case by the way – means making a serious investment of time and going about it intelligently with an injection of enthusiasm.

In order to be successful and win your next job though, you’ve got to throw your name into the mix. There’s no way you’re going to win out in the end if you’re not even in the race. Whether you start strong and count on your stamina to hold off the competition or you go at a steady pace and gradually pick up steam near the finish line to surge ahead of the others competing for the job you want is up to you. Sit on the sidelines though and one things for sure, you’re not winning. And whether it’s a thoroughbred horse, an elite athlete or even a beer league hockey player, the longer you’re not practicing and training, the longer it’s going to take to get into game shape and do anywhere near your best.

Have you heard the phrase that looking for a job is a job in itself? It’s likely you’ve heard some version of it. Looking for work is work; which is why many people avoid looking for work. After all, it takes effort and it doesn’t pay anything until it pays off with a job in the end.

Now I understand if you’ve been out of work for a long time or under whatever your personal circumstances are that you might be deserving of both some empathy and some sympathy. Sympathy by the way isn’t a bad thing; even if you say you don’t want or need others sympathy, a lot of folks actually do appreciate it. Neither sympathy or empathy however will ultimately get you a job. Eventually, you win the job by putting in the effort to land interviews and market your skills, experience and attitude to meet an employer’s needs. It’s you in the end going to those job interviews and performing well.

Make no mistake; I agree there are personal circumstances that impact negatively on one’s ability to job search. At the extreme, there’s a death in the immediate family, everything’s been lost in a natural disaster, you’re reeling from being unexpectedly fired, you’ve got ailing parents and suddenly you’re the only caregiver. Of course there are some sound reasons for NOT giving your job search  your total focus.

However, as I acknowledge the above, you have to similarly acknowledge that the time you spend away from seriously looking for work is working against you. Your references become less significant or completely irrelevant. Your knowledge of best practices, leading technology or even your keyboarding speed drops faster than you’d think. Self-confidence starts to fade and erode.

I know. Everyday I work with people who have been out of work for various periods of time for an assortment of reasons. Those who have not been looking for work with much success often tell me at some point, “I had no idea that how you look for work had changed so much. No wonder I’m not having any luck.”

The thing about looking for work is that yes, you might get fortunate and have a short search and end up working soon. However, while most people HOPE this is the case, it rarely is. It depends largely on the kind of work you’re seeking and the level you’re applying to in an organization, but seeking work generally takes stamina, character and persistence. Those three just aren’t that often immediately present in people who have been out of job search mode for long stretches.

Look, you might be smarting a bit, even resentful because there’s no way I know your personal situation and to make these kind of blanket statements is unfair. You might indeed take offence to what’s coming across like a shot at not just your job search efforts but you personally. Where’s that coming from though? Is it bitterness that you’ve had a lack of success? Is it hearing what no one close to you has told you out of not wanting to hurt your feelings, but you know to be true?

Deal with whatever needs attention; absolutely. I’m not cold and unfeeling! However, not indefinitely. The longer you put off your job search, the longer too you’ll need – perhaps – to steel yourself for what could be a prolonged search. May I suggest you get help; both to deal with whatever you’re going through that stands between you and looking for work with 100% focus, and get help with the job search itself.

Being out of work can be isolating. Getting support during your job search from a professional who knows best practices can not only get you off the sidelines and into the game, but help you get out in front of the competition.

 

Why Do Interviewers Ask About Your Weaknesses?


Lately I’ve had more than a few people ask me to explain why interviewers ask job applicants to share their weakness. Those wondering find it hard to imagine they’d be expected to actually reveal the truth, which they worry would actually kill their chances of getting a job offer; especially if their competition is holding back from being completely honest.

Well, figuring out why a question is being asked; what the purpose of the question is and what it’s designed to show, is critically important. So good for you out there if you’ve ever wondered about what this question about weaknesses is designed to get at.

At its heart, the question is asked to find any area in which the job applicant will need training if hired. So if your standard answer is to say you have no weaknesses as far as being able to do the job, you’d best be able to prove your stated ability right from day one. If it becomes clear that you do in fact need training; that you’ve misled the organization at the interview, you may find your lack of honesty costs you both your job and your reputation. Therefore, lying in the interview and then winging it; planning on learning on the job is not a good strategy.

Not only does stating you have no weaknesses add to the pressure you may feel to live up to that ideal, it also indicates you either don’t know yourself well or you are just flat-out being dishonest; and that’s not a good way to begin a working relationship. Everyone my friend has weak areas.

Now if the word, ‘weakness’ has you feeling nervous; that somehow admitting you have them will cost you the opportunity of getting hired, consider this revision:

In what area(s) would you need training to be most productive?

By rephrasing the question, you can see that the purpose of identifying an area – or perhaps more than one – is simply to give you the support and training you’ll need to be at your best in the shortest amount of time. One of the easiest things to name that you likely need to know and don’t during an interview is the organizations policies and procedures. While you may know the responsibilities of the job you are applying for, maybe having done similar work for another organization, you don’t know until hired the specific rules governing how things are done in this organization you’re hoping to catch on with, and how could you really without working there?

Now another reason the question is asked is quite interesting. In job interviews, every applicant is presumed to be at their best; from clothing and manners right through to the answers they give. After all, every applicant it is assumed is trying to make the best impression they can on those in decision-making roles with the purpose of landing the job offer. So every applicant will share good examples of their past work, highlight their strengths, accomplishments, successes and while accentuating their good points, hide or downplay any faults, errors, lack of good judgement or failures; I.e.., weaknesses.

Now if every applicant – including those you are competing with for a job – does in fact get asked to show a weakness, the playing field has been leveled; the question is right across the board. You don’t have to worry that you’ll be the only one revealing a weakness.

What you do have to be critically aware of is not revealing a weakness that the interviewer concludes is a deal-breaker; one so vitally important that it does cost you the job. Take the Customer Service Representative that dislikes people, the guy who says he’s got a short fuse and his past criminal record for assault shouldn’t be held against him, or the person applying for a job as a Personal Support Worker who says her bad back and knee-joint pains flare up every so often requiring time off. All three might indeed be weaknesses and are highly likely to cost those three people the job they are applying to.

When you do answer this question, do more than just state your weakness and become silent. That’s like dropping bad news and just letting it explode before you. The key to answering this question is to do more; go on to state what you’re doing to work on this area you’ve identified. Are you taking a night or online class to upgrade your knowledge? Have you had a word with your current Supervisor and asked them to put you charge of the odd project here and there to gain the leadership you’ve both identified you could grow from? Or have you learned from experience that you should hold your tongue for 24 hours  before reacting to things you overhear which has helped you gain perspective. So maybe you’re improving in an area.

When asked about my weakness, I don’t use the word, ‘weakness’ in my answer at all. I begin responding with, “Sure, I’ll share an area I’m improving in.” This subtle shift moves the answer from a weakness (negative) to an area of improvement (positive). It also helps me maintain confidence when speaking to an area I might otherwise feel vulnerable in.

Whatever you say, please don’t say you have none. If you do, you show perhaps the biggest weaknesses; a lack of honesty and an inflated ego.