What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

There’s a cool post from David Reese, who leads people and culture at Medallia, a Silicon Valley software startup that measures and provides data on customer experience, in which he explains the need for an honest answer to the common interview question “what is your greatest weakness?” 

Reese points out that a search of career center websites reveals the advice students are getting – to focus on lesser skills or spin their weaknesses into strengths.

This is terrible advice. It indicates to me that they’re not willing to stand up and say what’s not working — the opposite of what a startup needs. One of the biggest dangers for a young company is that a roomful of smart people who aren’t being honest could easily be steering their rocket ship into the ground.

When I interviewed at Hogan, I had a snappy answer ready to deflect this infamous question (“I have a problem properly channeling my incredible physical strength.”). I was so pleased with myself that I was disappointed when the question never came.

“You never asked me about my greatest weakness,” I said on the way out the door.

“We already know,” my future boss replied.

Although this news was initially disconcerting, as I reflected on it post interview, it was rather comforting. I had already taken the assessments, they had my results, they knew my stress points, and they still wanted to have lunch and talk about my future. That seems a better, more honest place to start an interview.