HR Blog

And the Winner for Least Useful Question in an Interview Is...

11/01/2016 | Dee Yingst

I mentioned in last month's blog that I really like caramel.  I mean I REALLY LIKE caramel.  I like it so much you might call it a….weakness

So why am I telling you this? Is it really all that important? Well, that depends. If I'm in an interview and I get asked about my weaknesses, you can bet I'm going to say caramel.  Why? Because caramel is a weakness; skills that aren't where I want them to be are areas I'd like to improve – not weaknesses

For every guide that tells an interviewer to be sure to ask this question, there's another one telling an applicant how to a) dodge the question, b) answer in such a way that a weakness is really a strength (such as, 'people say I waste time…because I'm always early for appointments') or c) give a plain vanilla scripted answer.

I don't think it's a question even worth asking. What is a "weakness" anyway? Is it something you're not good at? Is it something you just don't like to do? No matter what definition you use, it's a very negative question that just begs for an answer that either won't yield useful information or simply serves to cast a negative pall over the interview. So what to ask instead?

You want a question that requires the applicant to engage in introspection, not self-condemnation.

Why not ask them what part of their job brings them the least joy? Or what part of their duties do they wish they could do a little better? When I'm asked that type of question, I invariably say 'filing'. I can do it and I can do it fairly well (not great, but fairly well) but I would rather eat packing peanuts (with or without caramel) than do filing. It's not that I'm opposed to being organized but I will do everything else on my to-do list before finally resorting to filing.  This is an area that I wish I was more enthusiastic about so I work on improving how I handle it. 

Interviews can (and arguably should) be a fairly fluid process.  Often I find managers are either so worried about asking the "wrong" questions or are just so uncomfortable with the interview process that they ask broad and bland scripted questions.  We could debate whether there's harm in that, but there's not much to debate on whether there's much good to be found.  Like so many tasks, it's all in how you approach it

Well, since my to-do list is all caught up I suppose it's about time I do some of my filing….where are those packing peanuts when I need them?!