The Wrong Question to Ask: "What's Your Greatest Weakness?"

Apr 25
2014

The Wrong Question to AskLanguage is the principle way we convey and communicate our frames of reference. We all communicate through a set of filters that have been shaped by our history, beliefs, values, and perceptions. Likewise, those who hear our words process them through their own personal filtering system as they try to understand us. I’d offer the following alternative to the strengths or weaknesses question for predicting someone’s behavior in a specific role.

Being able to ask questions that tap into a candidate’s unconscious thought and behavior patterns in given contexts and circumstances is a far more effective strategy for selecting the right candidate for a job. If you are looking
 for a candidate who won’t get caught up in groupthink, it would be
 better to learn the source of the person’s motivation and judgment.

A great question for eliciting this information is: How do you know that you’ve done a good job at work? If the candidate’s answer focuses on their deciding that they did a good job, or they indicate resistance to someone else making a decision that they did a good job, the source of their motivation and judgment is internal. Since they are internally motivated and their judgment comes from internal standards, they would not get caught up in groupthink.

On the other hand, if their answer revolved around comparing what they did to an external standard, or others’ opinions, the source of their motivation is external and they would be more likely to engage in groupthink. Neither approach is good or bad in and of itself. What matters most is that the person’s pattern, and what is needed for success in that role, is compatible. This is just one of the many patterns that interviewers can test for with candidates during the course of an interview.

An organization that is capable of accurately identifying the patterns for specific positions, and interviewing to test for those patterns in the candidates, will be well served and end up hiring and managing to people’s strengths instead of suffering from their weaknesses.