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Top Interview Questions

Among the top interview questions, you will definitely be asked this one...

What are your weaknesses?

In a way, this really is an unfair question because, let's face it, we all have shortcomings and weaknesses.

No one wants to share something negative about themselves that could eliminate them as a serious candidate.

This top interview question almost puts you in a position where, you're darned if you do, and darned if you don't.

If you tell the interviewer that you don't have any weaknesses, he'll either think you're a liar, arrogant--or both.

On the other hand, if you reveal all of your sins, mistakes, and shortcomings you'll look like a problem-child and scare people off. 

Pearl of Wisdom: The best approach to answering top interview questions like this is to share a weakness that could also be perceived as a positive.

Weaknesses that could also be perceived as positives

  • Being overly meticulous, neat, or organized
  • Impatience with people who miss deadlines or goals
  • Being a workaholic
  • Being demanding
  • Intolerance towards slackers
  • Being a perfectionist

Would you agree that all of these weaknesses under the right circumstances could also be strengths?

But be careful here.

This tactic of turning a negative into a positive is widely known--especially among skillful interviewers. You'd be surprised how many people use the same generic weaknesses as a head-fake to dodge answering these kinds of top interview questions.

Some interviewers even refer to the, what are your weaknesses question, as the, perfectionist interview question.

A good interviewer won't let you get away with it and will drill deeper to flush you out.

Since top interview questions like this are so awkward to answer, let's take the time to go through a few examples to fully grasp their dual nature.

Special Tip: Avoid sharing anything too personal about yourself. Avoid putting employers in the uncomfortable position of hearing too much information.

It's important to know your boundaries and never cross them.

All of us have done something unwise, out of character, or just plain stupid that we regret. You shouldn't define your whole career by this one mistake.

All of us are a package of pluses and minuses, and most of us have many more strengths than weaknesses.

True Story - Dan Rather Meltdown

In 1987 Dan Rather--CBS News Anchor--walked off the set of his prime time evening newscast.

It was big news at the time. The New York Times reported:

Dan was angered because CBS decided to shorten the CBS Evening News to broadcast the end of a tennis match on Friday, and he walked off the set and caused the network to go black for six minutes.

Clearly Dan Rather made a big mistake, which I'm sure he later regretted. But should Dan Rather's entire career in journalism be judged negatively because of this one mistake?

Of course not.

Dan Rather is an exceptional journalist with many worthy accomplishments during his distinguished career. But like the rest of we mere mortals, Dan blew it that day for whatever reason.

OK--let's tackle a few of the weaknesses listed above and find out why people might perceive it as a weakness and a strength.

Impatience with people if deadlines are missed

This weakness/strength response to top interview questions is more appropriate for someone interviewing for a management position.

No one these days likes to be micro-managed. Teamwork, tolerance, and workplace happiness is preached ad nauseam in some organizations.

It has even reached cult proportions in some companies (think Walmart, McDonalds, Amway, Toyota).

All those happy smiling faces on the posters in the lobby.

Gee...isn't life grand?

So here comes this new manager who actually expects things to be done on time. Huh, what's her problem? Hasn't she heard that we're a team and just one big happy family?

A company is not a family.

There is work to do, and things need to be done right--and on time. When deadlines are missed, customers are not happy. And they just might buy from your competitors.

If this happens enough times, your business is at risk of going away.

Many companies get tired of coddling their employees to keep commitments and deadlines.

So if you have a firm approach to deadlines and are fair with people, what's the problem?

Being overly meticulous, neat or organized

People who are fastidiously neat tend to be inflexible and not very tolerant. They like things to be in their place and can't stand a messy work area.

They go by the book and see no reason to bend the rules. Neat-freaks are usually pragmatic, egotistical, and--annoying. I'm sure as you are reading this, someone you work with just popped into your mind.

You know what I mean. may have recognized yourself and are thinking: What's wrong with being neat and organized?!

Well, nothing really.

Companies with house keeping problems, stacks of papers, and closets full of junk need people who expect and demand order and neatness.

Usually companies with these kinds of issues are fast-growing, small to medium size companies. In these environments departments can be understaffed and overworked.

So they are secretly smiling inside when you hang your head and reveal this weakness.

Being a perfectionist

Perfectionism is without a doubt the number one response interviewers get when asking top interview questions like, What are your weaknesses?

So guess what? Interviewers will challenge you on this to make sure you're not acting. If you really are a perfectionist, fine, use it, but understand it's way overused.

Perfectionism can be a serious drawback. People afflicted with this tendency try to do everything perfectly--which is impossible.

As a result, they are constantly revising their plans and second guessing themselves instead of taking action. Obviously things don't get done very quickly if you're always changing direction or tweaking things one more time.

Perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators and slow decision makers. In this fast-paced world we live in, this could be a problem for an organization that needs to be competitive and quick to bring their product or service to market.

But not so fast. What is wrong with trying to do something to the best of your ability? Most quality systems strive for zero defects and preach getting to the root cause of a quality problem or organizational dysfunction.

Companies lose a lot of money because people make mistakes or do shoddy work. Low morale and job dissatisfaction can be the end result, not to mention lost business.

So a company in chaos or a state of dysfunction sees a perfectionist as an answer to their prayers.

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