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"What Are Your Major Weaknesses?"

You must be prepared to answer this trick question. If you answer the question as it is asked, you could easily damage your chances of getting the job. By trying to throw you off guard, the employer can see how you might react in similar tough situations on the job. I have often asked this question to groups of job seekers, and I usually get one of two types of responses. The first response goes like this:

"I really don't have any major weaknesses."

That response is untrue and evasive. The other type of response I usually get is an honest one like this:

"Well, I am really disorganized. I suppose I should do better at that, but my life has just been too hectic, what with the bankruptcy and embezzlement charges and all."

Although this type of response might get an A for honesty, it gets an F for interview technique.

What's needed here is an honest, undamaging response followed by a brief, positive presentation to counter the negative. The best approach is to present a weakness in a way that does not harmand could helpyour ability to do a good job. Here are some examples:

Sample Answer

"Well, I have been accused by coworkers of being too involved in my work. I usually come in a little early to organize my day and stay late to get a project done on time."

"I need to learn to be more patient. I often do things myself just because I know I can do them faster and better than someone else. This trait has not let me be as good at delegating tasks as I want to be. But I am working on it. I'm now spending more time showing others how to do the things I want done and that has helped. They often do better than I expect because I am clear about explaining what I want and how I want it done."

These responses could both be expanded with the Prove-It Technique, but they successfully use the Three-Step Process in answering a problem question, as outlined in chapter 1. In both cases, the answers responded to the question as it was asked, but they did so in a way that presented the weakness as a positive.

"What Sort of Pay Do You Expect to Receive?"

If you are unprepared for this question, any response you give is likely to damage your ability to get a job offer. The employer wants you to name a number that can be compared to a figure the company has in mind. Suppose that the employer is looking to pay someone $36,000 a year. If you say you were hoping for $40,000, you will probably be eliminated from consideration. The employer will be afraid that, if you took the job, you may not stay. If you say you would take $29,000, you will make it nearly impossible to negotiate for a higher salary if you are offered the job. Or the employer might decide that your skills are worth less than what the job requires.

Sample Answer

This question is designed to help the employer either eliminate you from consideration or save money at your expense. You could get lucky and name the salary the employer had in mind, but the stakes are too high for me to recommend that approach.

Employers often use discussions of pay in an initial interview to screen people out. Because you aren't likely to get a firm job offer in a first interview, your objective should be to create a positive impression and not be rejected. If the topic of pay does come up, avoid getting nailed down. Here are some things you could say:

"Are you making me a job offer?" (A bit corny, yes, but you just might be surprised at the result.)

"What salary range do you pay for positions with similar requirements?"

"I'm very interested in the position, and my salary would be negotiable."

"Tell me what you have in mind for the salary range."

"I prefer to hear more about the position before I can come up with a solid number."

Put off discussion of pay until you are sure it's the real thing and not just part of a screening process. See chapter 8 for more information on how to talk money when the time is right.

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