March 15th, 2016


The "what's your greatest weakness" interview question

It's a cliche, I know, and I've read that if someone actually asks you about your greatest weakness in an interview, you should say "this company is obviously boring and unable to think outside the box, you can't even ask unique questions! This is no place for me!" and storm out.

But I got to thinking about another good answer, if I were to answer this question, or ask someone this question.

I think a good answer would start with the words "There's a guy..."

"There's a guy on my team who, if you gave him a 1000 page report to go through, he will calmly just sit down and pick up page 1 and a month later report back with the most detailed, thorough review. I wish I had that patience. I have worked hard on being detail-oriented, and when I have to be, I've got strategies now... focus for four hours, then give myself a reward of going out to check out the production line is going. Summarize what I'm doing in a powerpoint to imagine that I get to give someone else a high level review. But it hasn't come naturally to me."

I would like hearing an answer like this because it shows that the person 1) pays attention to people 2) thinks about how to leverage the strengths of others 3) is trying to correct for their own shortfalls - all good things.

"There's a guy on my team who can sit through the most boring meeting, and stay totally focused, just looks at the speaker with the upmost respect even if they're droning on and on and everyone else is tearing out their eyes. I wish I could maintain that focus. I'm more likely the person who stands up and says WE NEED TO TAKE THIS TOPIC OFFLINE and when I say that, 8 out of the 10 in the room thank me, but I know that's not always appropriate so I've learned to hold back and really feel out for what's appropriate."

Answers like that.

I got to thinking about this, and googled it, and interview experts agree that the best thing to bring to this questions is a story about your growth - a mistake you've made that you course-corrected on so now it's cool. So they're with me. But the team thing is so important and so overlooked in engineers. I really like asking college students about their senior design teams and how everyone got along - the answers are always facinating. People always come in with this technical story, and that's okay, but we keep digging, because getting along with people is a bigger deal than they think.