Wednesday, July 06, 2005

How to answer interview questions

Dear Bob ...

Many years ago, way back in 1971, I was asked a seemingly appropriate (at the time) interview question and I was stumped for an answer.

The interviewer asked me 'What is your weakest point?'. As I sat there thinking, he eventually moved on.

About 10 years later, I was talking to the head of a government lab where I worked as a contractor. As we talked about jobs, I asked him that same question, and he was also at a loss for an easy answer. Since he was about 30 years older and much more job-experienced than I was when I faced the same question, I felt slightly vindicated.

- Challenged in the interview

Dear Challenged ...

How presidential of both of you: You'll recall the infamous press conference in which George W. Bush, asked what his worst mistake had been, couldn't think of any, even though everyone knows he was responsible for trading away Sammy Sosa.

This is a similar kind of question - one of those interview questions whose only point is to find out if the interviewee has anticipated it and thought of an answer. It is, in short, a disqualifying question - one where your goal is to move on as quickly as possible without raising any red flags.

The right way to answer this question is to present a clear weakness in a way that reflects a more important strength. For example: "I tend to forget the small items I promise to take care of. That's why I'm religious about putting every one of them in my PDA immediately."

You're honest about a weakness, make it clear you're both aware of it and have taken steps to address it, and leave no obvious opening for long discussion.

It's the right way to handle a question whose best possible outcome is to leave you unscathed. The only way to achieve that outcome is to prepare for the more obvious (and popular) disqualifying questions in advance.

- Bob

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?