The return of “What’s Your Greatest Weakness” or, This again? Really?

The return of “What’s Your Greatest Weakness” or, This again? Really?

When I started in Recruiting in the 80’s the most dreaded interview questions for I.T. professionals were “Desired Salary” and “What’s your Greatest Weakness?” These generally put fear into our candidates and were the primary focus of much of our interview preparation. Essentially we prepared candidates on how to play defense and have answers for questions we knew they were going to ask. No one benefited because it became a game of who was the best interviewer more than the best candidate.

The early 90’s saw the rise of Behavioral Interviewing and with it a realization that employee success and failure was more accurately predicted by core skills and behavioral characteristics. While some firms overemphasized this approach with too many scenarios, the positive was companies increasingly dropped the “Greatest Weakness” question from the interview process. By 2000 we had virtually no clients that asked this question and almost none that discussed salary with candidates during the interview process. We eliminated it from our prep and focused on how to identify needs and showcase skills related to a client’s needs (Marketing Yourself).

Good Riddance!

This was an incredibly positive move because it allowed a more valuable exchange of information between the client and candidate. Companies could focus on specific expertise with technologies, functional roles and some behavioral while allowing the candidate to ask questions to identify company needs, challenges and the pain points. A far more effective beneficial approach for everyone and better method for determining value/ benefit of hiring a candidate.

So What Happened?

You can imagine how confused I am to hear some clients now asking this question but at last check Google indicated 67.400,000 responses to my query about “What’s Your Greatest Weakness.” It’s not just my clients who now find this relevant but why? At least 60M of the links will tell you to a) give the company a weakness that has nothing to do with the role or b) chose a weakness from your past. If these are responses you’re going to be given than truly what’s the point in asking?

Please Technical Recruiter, HR Manager and for God’s sake I.T. Hiring Manager – the question is intellectually lazy, void of creativity and absolutely useless! Show you care about the talent you hire and ask:

– Tell me about an area you’ve improved greatly in over the last 2 or 3 years?

– What skill or talent are you most seeking to develop in your next role?

– If I asked your last boss, what area would they say you most need to further develop?


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