Continuing on from my last article Mind the Skills Gap this article will focus on ‘weaknesses’ and how to effectively front foot them at your interview.
Rather than avoid a weakness that may sabotage your interview – acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.
When I’ve interviewed candidates and questioned around a weakness, mostly no-one speaks to how they will mitigate the weakness.
What the Interviewer Wants to Know
The savvy interviewer wants to uncover what is going to get in the way of you being successful in the role. Equally, how you (and they) are going to remove the risk of any weakness getting in the way of success.
So your answer should be relevant. You want to quash any doubts. Relate it to a specific area you know the interviewer may have already picked up on.
Remember; This question is not designed to trip you up. I’ve often heard recruitment consultants being accused by candidates of “just being interested in tripping me up”. No. What they are doing is testing your competencies for the role. How well you answer their questions – including the ‘weakness’ question is your challenge – not theirs. They’re doing their job.
When a Weakness Will Sabotage Your Success
Where a new role demands a talent that you don’t have or where your skills are lower than success would require, the outcome will be perceived as a weakness. And in all likelihood unless you address it, you will fail (if not at the interview then certainly in the role itself). So you need to understand not only the strengths required, but also the potential for weaknesses to sabotage your success.
You can use this process to qualify yourself in or out whilst researching the role for your alignment with talent and skills required. You may wish to use an approach similar to the Role Attribute Template.
Know What The Weakness Is
Remember – a weakness is not the same as an area for development.
So what sort of weakness is it? Assess the gap before the interview. Know the impact.
- Skill: Can you learn the skill? If so – learn it. At the interview state how.
- Knowledge: Can you acquire the knowledge? If so – acquire it before the interview – or state how you will post placement.
- Talent: If you’ve assessed 1 and 2 and your performance is still likely to be lacking then you’re more than likely to be lacking the ‘talent’ required. This requires a strategy to ensure success. Try the following:
- You could try getting better at it. But how much time have you got? Before the interview? Probably isn’t going to fly. Once you’ve scored the role – probably. So you could try it then, however ensure you have put in place a weakness mitigation plan to catch any shortfalls in the meantime. You also need to be convincing during the interview.
- Know your mitigation plan. The interviewer will be wanting to know how you will mitigate the weakness. e.g. If you get bored signing off invoices and this has in the past led to errors this will come up at the interview or during reference checking. So a potential mitigator could be: Establish at which point the boredom happens and stop just prior. Do something else and come back to it. Your schedule for delivery of approved invoices is met and your accuracy is improved (possibly perfect). So the answer goes something like this: “During extended periods of invoice reconciliation my attention can sometimes creep. So to mitigate the risk I change the task whilst ensuring both accuracy and delivery schedules are met”.
- Teamwork / Delegation / Partnership. Draw on a someone else’s strength to neutralise your weakness. e.g. Where one of the team may have a strength in numerical reasoning (and you don’t), partner with them. One of your strengths may counter one of their weaknesses. This is teamwork at play and you are demonstrating: 1) awareness. 2) How you will deal with the weakness. 3) Understanding the power of teamwork
- Admit to it. Stop doing the ‘weakness’. The boredom you experience through long periods of invoicing is a good example here. i.e. Stop getting bored by doing something about it.
If you are constantly missing out at interview stage, an inability to satisfy issues around weaknesses may be why. It may be resolvable. It may not. Best to find out early in the process by researching as best you can and being prepared to ask the tough questions of yourself, and answer the tougher questions at the interview.
So – the bottom line is this…
- Know Your Weaknesses: You go into the interview knowing and having a strategy to mitigate your weaknesses.
- Don’t Rely on Covering Up a Weakness: You can never cover up a weakness by ignoring it. Deal with it.
- A Weakness is Real: Everyone has them. Determine if your weaknesses will sabotage your success. Counter them.
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