"sometimes you don't realize your own strength until you come face to face with your own weakness." susan gates - senior economist, director of Research Quality Assurance at the RAND Corporation and professor
For the last 4.5 years I have been spent a healthy amount of time with those in career transition. If you've been following my blog, you sense I'm hyper-focused on career management and these areas in career management:
...to name several!
In addition to my coaching practice, I also work with people through a faith-based program called Crossroads Career Ministry. Not surprising, the VAST majority of people attending these events are those in their 3rd or 4th quarter of their professional journey. "3rd or 4th quarter?" you ask? Check out:
Not surprising, the three areas where we come front and center with our weakness is:
This blog will discuss how to address WEAKNESS...ON PURPOSE!
No Surprise! NAME! AIM! CLAIM!
Let me cut to the chase before going into the detail. At the heart of dealing with your WEAKNESS...ON PURPOSE! it's all about self-awareness. Understand what your gifts, talents, and strengths are AND what they are not! Use your gifts, talents and strength to compensate! For more on NAME! AIM! CLAIM!
"You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. TOGETHER we can do great things." Mother Teresa
1. Job Interviews
Earlier, I mentioned helping people in career transition. When working with someone on a job search, they are expected to eventually have their resumes, marketing plan, elevator pitches, networking, behavioral interview question responses, STAR Stories (SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT), and negotiating skills in the ready for the final offer.
When discussing interviewing the one question that invariably could trip up someone is the dreaded "What ARE your weaknesses / challenges?"
Here are different weakness questions regularly asked in job interviews:
• What is your greatest weakness?
• What are some of your weaknesses?
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
• If I called your current/previous manager, what would he/she say you need to work on?
• Tell me about a development goal you have set.
• If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
• What do you most want to improve in the next year?
Follow-up Questions About Weaknesses
• How has that weakness negatively affected you?
• OK, how about a real weakness?
• Can you share another weakness or area for development?
What's the Best Way to Talk About Weaknesses in Job Interviews?
Be smug in your reply "I don't have any!", "I work too hard." "I don't have any weaknesses.", "I can't think of any relevant weaknesses." or another similar reply telegraphs you are not willing to share...it also comes across as showing a complete lack of self-awareness or dishonesty. You may have only one weakness -- if you are very lucky (or delusional or not paying attention) -- but you do have a weakness. At least one!
So, it's important to respond carefully, because you don't want the hiring manager to think that you're not going to be able to do the job. There are several different ways to answer when you're asked during a job interview what your greatest weakness is. You can mention skills that aren't critical for the job, discuss skills you have improved on, or turn a negative into a positive.
How to Answer...
Even though the question is about weaknesses, your answer should always be framed around positive aspects of your skills and abilities as an employee.
Discuss Non-Essential Skills
One approach to answering this question is to analyze the key skills and strengths required for the position you are interviewing and then come up with a honest shortcoming which is not essential for success in that job.
For example, if you are applying for a nursing job, you might share you are not particularly adept at conducting group presentations. In this case it will be critical to underscore your strength in one-on-one communication with patients, while providing an example of your difficulty with presentations to large groups.
Mention Skills You Have Improved
Another option is to discuss skills you have improved during your previous job, so you are showing the interviewer you can make improvements when necessary.
You sketch for employers your initial level of functioning, discuss the steps you have taken to improve this area, and then reference your current, improved level of skill. HINT: This is where STAR Stories (SITUATION, TASK, ACTION, RESULT) come in handy.
NOTE: If you use this strategy be sure not to mention anything you improved that is related to the job for which you are interviewing. Why? You don't want your qualifications for the job to be questioned.
Turn a Negative Into a Positive!
Another option is to turn a negative into a positive. For example, a sense of urgency to get projects completed or wanting to triple-check a spreadsheet can be turned into a strength i.e. you are a candidate who will ensure the project is done on time and your work will be thorough.
Pick Your Best Weaknesses!
You want to position yourself effectively within the interview and should match positive answers with a positive tone of voice and body language. When you prepare for this question, you will want to pick a weakness that does one of three things:
Be sure this weakness does not hinder your ability to do the job or to fit in with the employer.
Regardless of what strategy you use, your ultimate goal is to present an answer that doesn't damage your potential for the position. If you are not sure if you are picking a negative weakness, review the criteria for the position, and put yourself in the shoes of the employer to consider what you would like to hear and what you would think was negative.
Bottom Line in Handling Weakness in the Job Interview:
2. Work (After the interview) AND 3. Life
How to Address Weakness in General..
Being reminded of our weaknesses can be unpleasant. (Yet, it does not need to be!)
Since confronting weaknesses can be unpleasant, we may learn to avoid tasks that require skills we think of as weaknesses. This avoidance can cause problems and hold you back. For example, if you don’t see yourself as good at networking, you’ll likely avoid it. The more you avoid it, the harder it becomes. When you've avoided something for a long time, your skills won't be as good as someone who has regularly practiced. Therefore weaknesses can seem more pronounced over time. You can end up feeling embarrassed by them.
What’s the Solution?
A fun option to overcome a weakness is to find a new way to approach it that utilizes one of your core strengths. Let's stick with the earlier example, let’s say your weakness is networking AND one of your strengths is being deliberative. You could look for a way to approach networking that uses your deliberative. Your solution could be something like deliberately following up with a thank you email, note or text message when a co-worker has helped you, or a contractor has done a good job. You’re then essentially redefining the activity not as a “networking” activity but as a “deliberative” activity.
Start by Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses.
To implement the above process in your own life, you’re going to need to build awareness of your strengths. Try starting with your TOP 5 strengths (CliftonStrengths) and identify 1-3 weaknesses. Write them down in 2 columns, and then draw arrows from the strengths to the weaknesses where you think you could potentially apply a strength to a weakness. You don't need to be 100% sure how you're going to do it just yet. Go with your gut of what you think might be applicable.
For the weaknesses, focus on things that are getting in your way and you have some motivation to change. For example, the weaknesses could be related to negotiating, finances, relationships, or health behaviors.
The types of strengths from CliftonStrengths:
There are many options for how you can redefine an area of weakness. You could redefine networking activities in terms of living the 'do unto others' principle—you might think about how you’d like to receive a thank you when you’ve helped someone, and therefore you’re going to treat others the same way.
When you redefine tasks you’d normally avoid in this way, your urge to avoid will lessen. This will then have a snowball effect because when you start practicing a task you'll build both skills and confidence, and will allow you to expand your comfort zone, a little bit at a time.
It Starts With Being Honest and Transparent
It bears repeating, be honest and transparent. If you know your strengths be honest and relate how you can sometimes "over use" a strength. No surprise, when we overuse a strength it may come across as a weakness. For a comprehensive list of how strengths can be over used please see: The TWO Sides of Gifts...
NEWS FLASH! EVERYBODY DOES over-use strengths from time to time! Our opportunity is to recognize when we are over-using a strength! How?
Being comfortable in your own skin includes knowing your gifts, talents, and strengths. It ALSO means understanding your weaknesses EVEN if those weaknesses can be brought on by OVER USING a gift, talent, and strength. No surprise this self-awareness is constantly evolving. Be open to it and expect your career and life journey to be an exciting one!
My best to your quest!
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted relationships where individuals, teams and leaders NAME, CLAIM and AIM their gifts to achieve optimum performance.
Interested to Learn About Yourself or Your Team? Mark is a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach and TotalSDI Facilitator and happy to discuss your situation
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About Mark Myette
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted
Based out Roam - Buckhead - 3365 Piedmont Rd NE, Suite 1400 (2nd Floor), Atlanta, GA 30305
Can meet at other Roam locations if appropriate: Alpharetta; Dunwoody; or Galleria