Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interviewing: What's Your Biggest Weakness?

"What's your biggest weakness?" asks the interviewer.
     "Well, um, I guess it would be . . . ." stumbles the interviewee.
And, the rest, as they say, is history.  A history of missed opportunities due to lack of a credible and reasonable response to one of the most frequently asked interview questions:  What's your biggest weakness?

"What's your biggest weakness?"
A lot of interviewers ask this not particularly good interview question.  They ask it as much to see how you handle this question as to actually hear your response.

A not particularly good interview question
A not particularly good question, responses to it have ranged from irrelevant to the embarrassing to bordering on the illegal.  Some candidates, feeling helpless and without a strategy, provide a foot-in-mouth answer that knocks them out of the competition entirely.  Some even respond with a weakness that turns out to be a primary job function and . . . . .  it goes without saying how that turns out!

So, what's a job seeker to do? 
The question feels like a "Catch 22:"  Answer honestly and you may be out of the competition.  Answer with a “I don’t have any weaknesses!” and that answer comes across as a “smart alec-y” or “full-of-yourself” type of answer, AND also indicates a lack of self-awareness - neither of which are qualities interviewers are seeking in new employees. 

A lot has been written about the best way to handle this question.  Strategies job seekers have used include:

-  A non-response:  Some candidates simply say they have "none."  

  • The problem with this response is that since no one is perfect, the answer is not seen as credible.  It can even be as cocky or smart alec-y.  Either way it doesn't enhance your standing in the interviewer's eyes.
-  An opportunity-killing response:  Citing a weakness that is considered key to performance of the job.
  •  The problem with this response is obvious - you are telling the interviewer you can not perform the job. 
 - A cliche response:  Responses that cite "strengths" or admirable qualities disguised as a weakness -
  1.  "I tend to work too hard."
  2.  "I drive my employees too hard."
  3.  "I'm a workaholic."   
  • The problem with this type of response is that interviewers are on to you!  These answers have become trite and cliche.  They've been written about, taught in interview training, practiced pre-interviews, and over-delivered. They don't ring true and savvy interviewers often follow-up by asking the interviewee to cite a second weakness!
In fairness, while some of these strategies listed above may work, and have worked, in some circumstances or in rare situations, generally they don't work and result in a job seeker being eliminated from the competition.

A better way
Below is a strategy to follow that delivers a plausible response in most situations.  Here’s a better tack to take:
  • Step 1 Choose a weakness  --  or in better terms an area in which you could improve – that is not a key requirement of the job.  For instance, if you are applying for a “Communications Director” position, you wouldn’t say “I’m a poor communicator.”  In that case you would certainly be out of the running, and quite frankly, deserve to be.  A job seeker shouldn’t be applying for a job where they can’t handle the main function!
  • Step 2.  Select a weakness (i.e. areas that are not among your greatest strengths) that is not such a key function that it would prevent you from doing the job.  For example, a communications director might choose budgeting.
  • Step 3.  Now, and THIS IS KEY:  State that while you are an excellent communications representative in terms of the key functions (name them), budgeting WAS (i.e., past tense) not your strongest area.  However, recognizing this, you have taken actions (name them) to improve in that area.  And, while you will never be a "finance person," YOU ARE COMPETENT in developing your communications' budgets.
A triple win
Using the strategy just described above, you score a TRIPLE WIN!
1.  You provide an honest response.
2.  You show self-awareness.
3.  You not only show but “demonstrate” a strength:  When you identify a problem, you (1) recognize it and (2) take action.

In summary, effective interviewing is not easy, but it's not rocket science either! While there are 1000s of interview questions being asked, many are common and frequently asked questions.  Do some homework.  Learn what these frequently asked questions are, plan credible responses in advance, and sail through your interview!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.  View Nancy's Nine Cardinal Rules of Interviewing for more advice.
nancy@ajcglobal.com              www.ajcglobal.com             AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:  www.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-c-gober/6/14b/965        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Networking is a 2-Way Street

Networking is a 2-Way Street!
Question:  What is one of the most common mistakes job seekers who are new to networking make?

Answer:     Not recognizing that networking is a give-and-take practice, i.e.., a 2-way street!

Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings to talk with people about your job search a smart thing to do! 
Talking with people in your network in order to seek information and advice is a time-tested technique for finding a new position or enhancing the one you’ve got!       Why?

Because as folks in your network of contacts learn about you, and the needs you can fill in an organization, they begin to think of you in that context.  When they hear of an opening, or a potential one, in their own organization or in the company of a friend or colleague, they think of you and refer you.  That’s a triple win - for you the job seeker, your contact, and the hiring organization.

A 1-to-1 networking meeting, over a cup of coffee in a comfortable spot, allows you to tell your network contact about the good things you can offer a hiring firm, as well as to learn from your contact what they know about organizations in which you could be an asset.  In fact, It is one of the best, if not THE best, way to access the hidden employment market, where well over 80% of the best jobs are found.

GIVE as well as TAKE
However, recognize that when you engage in networking, you have a responsibility to GIVE as
Successful Networkers Give & Take!
well as TAKE.
  Sure, you are the one in need of help right now as you search for a new job, but remember to be appreciative and generous with those that help you.  (More in a minute about what that means.)

As you reach out to network contacts, you'll find that most people want to help.  They'll provide information,invite you to stay in touch, and even meet with you a time or two.  But recognize that depending on your response and subsequent actions your relationship could be short-lived or grow and extend over a career if not a lifetime.  Some even evolve into genuine friendships and business relationships.

Appreciative and generous in your response:  Giving
As a job seeker, you're the one in need and, if out of a job, the one with a small bank account.  So how do you show appreciation?  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Following a networking meeting or interaction, in addition to thanking them in person at the end of your meeting, remember to:
  1. Thank the contact who is helping you in a meaningful follow-up Thank You note.  In other words, put some thought into it!
  2. Keep in touch.  Keep your contact updated on your progress with some e-mails, a phone call or two, even another networking meeting.
  3. Look for ways you can be helpful to them.  While buying lunch right now is not in the cards, you can be helpful in less costly ways.  
    1. You can forward information on topics you learned in talking is important to them.  
    2. You can introduce or refer them to someone in your own network who would be a good contact for them.
    3. Offer to serve on a volunteer committee they are chairing.
    4. Invite them to attend a professional association meeting where the topic is of interest.  
    5. Or, offer your ideas for a work problem or new project they have, etc. . . . . .  You get the idea. 
  4.  And, a closing "goes-without-saying" thought: When inviting contacts for a networking meeting over a coffee, please offer to buy the coffee!
It's a Smart Strategy!
Networking is a 2-way street.
Setting up 1-to-1 networking meetings as an integral part of your job search is a smart and effective practice.  As you take information and support from your contact, and give back in kind, you'll find yourself moving closer to achieving your goal.   There just could be a job in it for you!  . . .  .  . It's a Smart Strategy!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tab of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
nancy@ajcglobal.com              www.ajcglobal.com             AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:  www.linkedin.com/pub/nancy-c-gober/6/14b/965        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub