Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Question to Make a Monkey of You

As most of you know.... I work with people trying to help them get from where the are today to where they want/need to be tomorrow. The title of this story caught my eye and I will save to use with when we do our "Mock Interviews"..

Hope each of you is having a GREAT Day---- and if you live anywhere that is as cold as it is here this morning--- I hope you are staying warm!

Now the story from the Wall Street Journal by Joann S. Lublin....

A Question to Make a Monkey of You

Worldwide Panel LLC, a small market-research firm, is getting flooded with résumés for four vacancies in sales and information technology.

However, officials expect to reject numerous applicants after asking them: "What is your greatest weakness?" Candidates often respond "with something that is not a weakness," say Christopher Morrow, senior vice president of the Calabasas, Calif., concern. "It is a deal breaker."

[Managing Your Career] Robin Eley

The weakness question represents the most common and most stressful one posed during interviews. Yet in today's weak job market, the wrong answer weakens your chances of winning employment.

Some people offer replies they mistakenly assume that bosses love, such as "I am a perfectionist." That response "will be used against you" because you appear incapable of delegating, warns Joshua Ehrlich, dean of a master's program in executive coaching sponsored by BeamPines Inc., a New York coaching firm and Middlesex University in London.

A careful game plan could help you cope with the shortcoming query in a way that highlights your fit for a desired position. Job seekers who field the question well demonstrate that they can "take initiative and improve themselves," Mr. Morrow says.

The key? Thorough preparation. Career specialists suggest you take stock of your weaknesses, focusing on job-related ones that won't impede your ability to perform your duties. Tony Santora, an executive vice president for Right Management, a major outplacement firm in Philadelphia, says an information-technology manager flubbed a 2007 interview by choosing a personal foible as his reply: "My true weakness is that I am a terrible cook."

Rehearse your responses aloud, role play with a friend or videotape yourself -- but don't memorize your words. As you review the video, look for aspects "you would like to change so you can continue to get better as you practice," says Peggy Klaus, a leadership coach in Berkeley, Calif.

The IT manager changed his tune after practice sessions with fellow job seekers and a counselor in Cincinnati for Right Management. He instead said he worked such long hours that he found it difficult to stay current with world events. So, he spent 30 minutes every evening catching up at home.

When the manager pursued an opportunity at a global drug maker, his revamped response "really resonated with the interviewer," says Mr. Santora. The manufacturer hired the man.

It's equally important that you consider an employer's corporate culture. While being interviewed by a start-up, "you could say, 'My weakness is I get bored by routine,'" says Ben Dattner, a New York industrial psychologist.

Last month, an aspiring executive director of a nonprofit group in suburban San Francisco nearly jeopardized his selection because his reply to a variation of the weakness question ignored one of its core values, according to Ms. Klaus, a board member there. Near the end of his interview, she wondered whether he might have problems with any aspects of the job. "No, I am confident I could do it all," the prospect declared.

Weakness Warnings

A sample of wrong answers to the most common interview questions:

"I have no weaknesses"

"I am a workaholic"

"I can't seem to meet tight deadlines"

"I am impatient with incompetent people"

"I lack judgment when I'm under stress"

"I sometimes make mistakes with my work"

"I'm detail oriented"

"I like to drink now and then"

"I can't tolerate trite interview questions like this one"

Source: WSJ reporting

His flip comment dismayed Ms. Klaus, because she felt he lacked awareness of his weaknesses. She says his response raised doubts among board members that "he would be able to take critical feedback," an attribute the organization values highly.

Because the man was well-qualified, the board gave him a second interview -- and demanded a fuller explanation of his weak spots. He said he had been "unprepared for that question and nervous about coming out with a big fatal flaw," then described his tendency to make decisions too fast during workplace crises. Board members' doubts disappeared, and they picked him for the nonprofit's top job.

Ideally, your reply also should exclude the word "weakness" and cover your corrective steps. Dubbing your greatest fault a "window of opportunity" signals your improvement efforts should benefit the workplace, says Oscar Adler, a retired Maidenform Brands sales executive and author of the book, "Sell Yourself in Any Interview." For instance, he suggests, a salesman might note that he sold more after strengthening his facility with numbers.

When an interviewer pops this nerve-wracking query, your body language counts as well. The wrong nonverbal cues undercut your credibility. Certain candidates hunch over, glance furtively around the room or wring their sweaty palms. "They sort of look like they're being asked a question they can't handle," says Mr. Adler.

Maintaining eye contact, regular breathing and a broad smile impress employers that "you're prepared for the weakness question," says psychotherapist Pat Pearson, author of "Stop Self-Sabotage!"

For the same reason, you seem thoughtful if you pause before responding. But don't wait too long. "If you're going to take a minute," Mr. Morrow cautions, "I've just identified your weakness."


Sue said...

Wow. This is manna from Heaven information for me and makes some excellent points I hadn't thought of. I've run this scenario through in my head a hundred times and am still not quite sure what to say. There's a sweet spot between shooting yourself in the foot with self deprication and coming off as cocky, and I still don't know where it is. Sure hope I don't harpoon myself on this one. Dang.

Waynette said...

It is a tough question. What is your Greatness Weakness? I would answer the person by saying:

I love my job, but sometimes having to enforce our discipline policy is difficult. I love every child, and sometimes identify too well with them. I think my weakness actually makes me better. I think by following this policy with a heavy heart enables me to communicate with both children and adults better.

I think it's important to make your weakness actually sound like it's a strength. It's also important to look at the person speaking to you directly and make eye contact. I think the more you squirm, the worse the outcome is gonna be.

I think it's great that you help people to become what they aspire to be. :)

Ann said...

Sue I know you won't harpoon yourself. The situation will open itself and at that time you will know the right answer.

Waynette, I think you are absolutely right about the direct eye contact! Squirming will get you everytime.

I really love my job! I never do the same thing two days in a row and everyday is filled with multitasking... One minute I may be helping someone with interview skills, then helping in the computer lab, then I'm off to speak to a civic club, and then maybe planning a program for middle schoolers.

I really admire you!! I taught 5th grade for 5 years and when I left the classroom to buy a business, I KNEW I would not be back as a substitute! That is probably one of the all time hardest jobs on earth! Sometimes the teacher appreciates you but the kids will try you for ALL you are worth!

Waynette said...

You are too kind Ann. I do love my job. I can honestly say, that the kids are really incredible. There is nothing like the feeling of a child's love. I have such a Great respect for some of the teachers I fill in for.

Waynette said...

I just realized I said Greatness Weakness. I wonder if I'm the only one that combines words when they type.

Another good tip which I'm sure you already know, Is to have someone else read your resume before you submit it. I almost never catch my own typos. I read it correctly most of the time even if it is incorrect.

Anyway I meant to say Greatest not

Ann said...

lol.... Waynette you are to good.... I do the EXACT same thing! The only way I ever catch my mistakes is to hit preview and then read it... not really read it but call the words one by one... Then sometimes...just sometimes I catch my mistakes.

That is why I have two girls in my office that each has to read/proof everything I send out (big stuff that is like letters and grants...)

Jim said...

Great post about the monkey question. It really is a tough one and it's been tossed to me a couple of times.

Angie ^i^ said...

My answer to this question has been, and will probably continue to be, that I don't know everything. No one can possibly know everything thing that relates to their job of choice. The kicker to this is that I know where to find the answer and I'm not afraid to find it. I don't care how long you've done a job, or what your level of education is, you can't possibly know every answer to every situation. Whether you ask another associate to share their knowledge, or you research your answer on the net, is irrelevant. What truly matters is that you don't try to FAKE your knowledge therefore potentially screwing something up. In my line of work, screwing up could end me in prison!