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When hiring managers turn detective: how to answer that probing question

They know how much information and advice about acing job interviews there is on the internet

When it comes to the job interview, you may think you are fully prepared; however, hiring managers are turning to sneaky tactics to get to the bottom of the well-prepped candidate’s capabilities. They know how much information and advice about acing job interviews there is on the internet and have devised new and increasingly tricky ways of cutting through the layers of well-discussed answers you will have rehearsed.

One of the most common yet most dreaded questions that comes up in job interviews is the one that touches on your weaknesses. The interviewer may ask you outright what your weaknesses are, ask you to describe a situation where you were challenged in your previous job, or ask what you find most difficult about your current position.

Whichever way this question is asked, it is designed to make you talk about your weaknesses and reveal whether your approach is to improve on your less-than-perfect performance by focusing on learning and practice or whether you have more of a fixed attitude, regarding your difficulties as permanent traits that cannot be adapted and overcome. In other words, this type of question is designed to reveal your attitude.

This much we know – so much so that we are likely to have prepared answers and rehearsed them so well that even these tough, personal questions may not faze us; however, managers have shifted tactic to beat potential employees at their own game. They often now segue into the psychological interrogation techniques of a detective, with the weakness question now more likely to come disguised as “What do you most dislike about yourself?”.

This is designed to throw you off course; until now, you are unlikely to have prepared for this question. It seems too invasive and close to the bone for a standard job interview question; however, don’t be surprised if you find yourself facing it if you are attending a job interview any time soon.

Expert James Reed – author of Why You? 101 Job Interview Questions You Will Never Fear Again and the founder of job site Reed – advises you to resist the temptation to volunteer yourself for a psychological grilling. We are all egotistically inclined to be sucked into discussing our darker nature given half the chance.

Instead, he advises you to keep your cool, avoid the pull of the ego and try to turn the question on its head by admitting to a manageable and non-negative flaw; for example, “I dislike that I sometimes push myself too hard” is a great way of being open about your flaws whilst using the opportunity to paint yourself in a positive light.

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