July 22, 2014 – Colleen Niese - Insights

Tell Me About Your Greatest Weakness

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The other day on the radio I actually heard an executive recruiter recommend that if this question is asked the candidate should dodge it at all costs. He went on to say that answering the question truthfully could put landing the position at risk. Why he would suggest aversion as a better route to go is probably best left for another blog but in listening to his “advice” I started to think about the question itself and was reminded how little value that question potentially can bring to the interview for both parties.

If you want to know a candidate’s strengths and limitations ask questions specifically related to aligning his experience and expertise to the core responsibilities of the open position and center the conversation on those topics. If you really want to zero in on the individual’s leadership competencies, ask questions related to feedback he has received from peers, direct reports, and executive leadership. You can also take it another step by using behavioral profile assessments. For low dollars, you can receive an insightful report that compares the behavioral composite of the position to the candidates’ own, self-described behavioral tendencies. This approach will be much more authentic and easier for the hiring manager to evaluate where the candidate’s overall profile falls into the spectrum of the company and position’s needs and expectations.

Another question that typically tempts the candidate to give a canned response is, “where do you see yourself in five years?” Like any interview question, self check as to why you ask this question and what you expect to learn from the answer. If you’re trying to find out the candidate’s view of her own career path and objectives then ask questions that will encourage the candidate to focus in on what you’re trying to learn. And don’t forget, generally speaking, millennials are trending to work at any given company for 1-3 years so they’re literal interpretation to that long view question actually may be misleading.

The last commonly asked question that can make candidates squirm in their chair is regarding salary expectations. This is a pretty straightforward question and should be asked directly and early. Any candidate worth evaluating should do his homework on valuing the position and have a clear understanding of his own salary needs. Candidates who answer this particular question with clarity and confidence are memorable.

Are you interested in more information about interviewing tips and best practices? uDrive subscribers have access to tools and templates that can help. These can be found in the Recruitment and HR Tools sections of the site.