What is your weakness?

Man, this one is rearing up again. I’ve seen it take over my LinkedIn feed as of late. And like normal, I see a bunch of candidate responses that clearly sidestep it by talking about overcoming. Managers that argue we should only be hiring for strengths. People talking about how others need to be self-aware. This question just doesn’t go away. 

I’m feeling especially feisty and opinionated today. So, I jotted down my thoughts.

This is a LAZY QUESTION! It serves no purpose UNLESS there is follow-up from the manager, and introspection from the candidate. You need BOTH for this question to serve its purpose. 

Here’s an example of traditionally how the question works:

Manager: “Mx. Candidate, what is your weakness?”

Candidate: “I’m a perfectionist and I work too hard.”

Manager: “Great! You’re hired.”

Okay, so that was an oversimplification. But those are the top two answers I’ve seen on this question.

Let’s attack this again (with an actual conversation I experienced):

Manager: “Mx. Candidate, what is your weakness?”

Candidate: “I’m a perfectionist, and I work too hard.”

Manager: “So tell me how that has affected your ability to do your job.”

Candidate: “It hasn’t.”

Manager: “So, it’s not a weakness.”

Nope, still doesn’t work.

If you truly want to know the type of person you are hiring, and you need to know the depth of their skills, and what areas you’ll need to coach them in. You need to ask a question that gets the heart of what they are currently working on. 

 Ask this:

“What skill set(s) are you actively improving right now.”

“Why have you decided to work on that particular skill, or set of skills?”

Or, you can have a conversation along these lines:

“What is your strength?”

“When has your strength not served you well?”

“What could you do to improve your strength?”

“Why do you think that would improve it?”

“In a perfect world, what would this look like?”

“How would this company benefit from that?”

You see? It’s all in the follow up questions. You’ll have a much deeper conversation; you’ll see if the candidate did their homework on your company. You’ll know if they have what it takes to be on your team. You’ll know so much more. You’ll be able to manage to their strengths, and mentor them in their development. You’ll know the depth of how they think. 

And you are much less likely to get a spun response.