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Published on September 24, 2018

What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

What to Do When Asked About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

A job interview can be as close to legal torture in the 21st century that hopefully any of us will ever get.

We’d rather have our pointless appendices’ removed than sit opposite someone who has the power to decide if we’re going to get any money in our bank account and feel like a useful member of society. No pressure then.

So if it’s not bad enough that you spent hours agonizing over the perfect outfit, checking the location (a hundred times) and reorganizing your CV for the 50th time you know at some stage you’re going to feel like you are facing the Spanish Inquisition or feel like you are 7 years old in front of the head master (who can reduce you to a blubbering wreck just by saying your first name.)

How are you supposed to perform well in an environment like that?

How are you supposed to showcase that you are the perfect candidate for the job when you can’t think of one clever thing to say?

And how are you supposed to get around the random questions companies insist on asking, like asking about your weaknesses in a job interview?

Let’s look at how to deal with those tricky questions that can leave you feeling stumped and like you have no chance of getting the job in ways that doesn’t require you to reinvent yourself.

Before you get in there

Who are they?

    It’s not rocket science to know that if you want a job you should do your research on that company:

    • What matters to them?
    • What is their brand like?
    • What does their website look like?
    • Does it talk about individuals, mission statements, ethos, values or charitable work?
    • How do they present themselves?

    Taking the time to learn about the company you are going to aim to work for means that whatever question that comes up you have in your head (hopefully if you actually took notes and really thought about the company) what they want to know and what floats their boat, i.e. you know who they want to work with.

    While anyone can (in theory) work anywhere, we all fit in some places better than others. Some will tell you it’s good to be able to change who you are; however eventually that can get physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and that’s no good for long term success.

    Knowing who you are looking to work with means you can find out if you actually want the job too and if you don’t it helps you assess what matters to you in your career.

    Who am I?

      Turn on the TV, phone or laptop and just by watching an advert, you can work out what they are selling, what age it’s intended for, what kind of person it’s aimed at and even where their ideal demographic likes to eat or travel to.

      None of that is by accident.

      A strong brand attracts the right people. And just like organisations want to attract the right customers they also want to attract the right staff. Therefore before you even get to the interview really take the time to answer the questions above on yourself:

      • What matters to you?
      • What is your brand like?
      • What do you look like online?
      • What is your mission statement, ethos, values and charitable interests?

      Let who you are exude through every question you are asked. This also enables you to appreciate why you would really like to work for this company.

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      You’ve taken the time to assess if their values, beliefs, products, etc match up to what you want and that helps you to connect regardless of whether you get an answer wrong or not.

      This also means you have prepared some of the things that you want from that organization too. Are you looking to stay in that job for the rest of your life? Are you looking to learn new skills? Are you looking to be a part of a bigger team? Are you looking to take on the big challenges that face society?

      Knowing this information can really help because interviews are not just about being asked questions it is about the ability to ask effective well thought questions too.

      Practice, practice practice

        Interview skills is a bit like any communication skill especially public speaking; you need to consider what you want to get out of this communication and they want to get out of this communication too.

        To do this, it is about having the right skills and the right mindset. Like public speaking or any communication where you have a vested interested, an interview’s results can be damaged by not ensuring you look after both the mindset and skill set.

        For instance, you could have an awesome positive attitude; however if you’ve not done your research and physically prepared accordingly, you could still fail. Likewise, if you have all the right skills but lack the right mindset, again you could fail. To get around this you need to be prepared mentally.

        This works well for big moments in life too. Really visualize walking away from the venue, secretly grinning from ear to ear because you got exactly the result you wanted, i.e.:

        • How do you feel?
        • What was said?
        • What is going to happen next?
        • What are you wearing?
        • Where are you?

        Craft the result in your head in every detail.

        Why is this so important? Because in life, we can’t always plan for what is going to happen however we can be determined to get the result we want. And by being determined, we can ensure we keep heading in the right direction. Essential for interviews where you don’t actually know what is going to be asked of you.

        In the room

        How you act

          I’m very aware that so far I’ve not told you what to say to those difficult questions that really throw you and that’s because if you get everything else right, those questions (and their answers) become less important because overall you’ve still had the chance to shine and impress.

          When you walk in that room, you want to look like you should be there (and are pleased to be there) but not like you own the town. Arrogance can cost you the job and there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

          Make eye contact. Are you the kind of person that can get served first in a packed bar? Then it’s a good chance you’ve sussed eye contact. Eye contact is not just about the eyes, it’s about your body too. How do you stand? With confidence?

          Do you look like a bunny trapped in the headlights of a car? Or happy to be here?

          This works on two levels, first it makes you look confident and secondly, it makes the other people in the room feel more comfortable. Try changing the way you sit and act in a room and watch how those around you can change too. We feed off other people.

          How you breathe and speak

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            A space in a sentence is not the same as an “Um” pause. Know the difference. One has confidence the other is feeling out of their depth.

            Practice lots of kinds of questions and practice out loud your replies. As someone that has helped a lot of people become successful public speakers, I know the importance of breathing for you and your audience.

            So practice, because where and how you breathe can impact on the way you come across:

            • What is their style? — Know the style of the person asking the questions.
            • Do they speak fast?
            • Do they like to use jargon? (Or do they hate it?)
            • Do they speak quietly or loudly?
            • Do they speak in long sentence?
            • Do they ask open questions or closed?

            These and more give you clues into the interviewers preferred way of speaking and if you can naturally mirror their language, terminology, tonality and phrasing the interviewer can feel like they are building a rapport with you.

            Don’t overdo it though, because that can be creepy and put them off!

            Down to the evil interview questions

            Think of it from the interviewer’s point of view, they’ve got to fill a position in their organization and they want their business to be the best. They want to know that the person they ask these questions to will be perfect to fit in their team, make the difference and help them achieve what they aim to.

            A big responsibility to achieve all of that in a few questions. So how can they find out who someone really is? How can they work out what is true in your CV and what you researched on line as the “top 10 things to include in your CV”?

            These questions are a mixture of tedium of asking the same question so many times, researching what questions you should ask (yes, it’s not just the interviewee that will hit the search engines!) and trying to ask questions that enables them to remember the individual behind each answer. So let’s look at what to say:

            I don’t know

              Not knowing the answer is not against the law and no one knows everything. So if you don’t know the answer, the first rule is don’t lie. You will get found out.

              Think about this right now, what could be an answer to a question that you don’t know that enables you to look honest and keen to learn more and capable in areas around this subject?

              Preparing some answers (Out loud so you can hear how they sound) means you can feel more prepared. And while I could write the words to say, they would be my words and not natural to you and so could come across as fake.

              The key to shining in an interview is allowing who you really are to shine through. (If they don’t like that, it could be this is the wrong company, not you’re the wrong candidate!)

              Don’t’ be a politician

                Another dangerous approach is to keep talking without answering the question. This is an infuriating technique that could cost you points. Think about answers that you can give that showcase what you do know in this field.

                “I’ve not had a lot of experience with xxx however I’ve had great results using xxx and it led to a xxx% increase in sales so I feel I have the right skills to migrate to xxx”

                Thinking about what you are good at and how it relates to the job you are going for means you can prepare lots of answers like this.

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                When working with someone who is looking to pitch to an audience or engage an audience with an idea that they may not (initially) like, you don’t want to tell the audience what to think, however you do want to answer the negative questions that are in their heads.

                The same applies in an interview. What questions do you feel would worry you if an interviewer asked them of you? How could you alleviate their concerns in prepared answers?

                Proof is in the pudding

                  When you are faced with tough questions, be prepared with examples of how successful you’ve been in the past.

                  For instance, when I first trained as a coach many years ago, I didn’t want to tell people I was a newly qualified coach (newly qualified can sound amateur and not up to the job, right?), so I steered my answer to the fact that I was 1 of the UK’s youngest female automotive Body shop managers with over 20 years experience in business.

                  Proven experience, right?

                  Think about successes in your career and how they can feature in your proof.

                  Steer clear of extravagant exaggeration

                    While it’s important to showcase “why you” with proof and to be confident. No one likes a big head, so be mindful of your language.

                    I’m over enthusiastic at the best of times, so I have to be mindful of my audience and ask myself “is this the kind of language that makes them feel comfortable or am I making myself stand out for the wrong reasons.”

                    Feel free to say “I had a xx% increase in productivity from the team thanks to this idea;” however, avoid “It was due to my brilliance that I created this system that helped the department increase productivity by xx.”

                    How does your choice of language impact on the way you come across? Are you someone that risks exaggeration or exuberant language?

                    Know when to shut up

                      If you are digging yourself in a deep whole with an answer that goes nowhere. Know when to stop talking.

                      Taking a moment to prepare your prospective replies can help with this. If you’re concerned about not talking or having an answer, repeat their question back to them in this style: “That is a good question, ‘what is my view on my ability to deal with xxx?’” and in doing so, you create the space to think.

                      Thinking is not banned in an interview. If anything, a well prepared reply says you are confident in your own skin and are taking this seriously instead of just splurging out the first thing that comes into your head.

                      The answer for “What is your biggest weakness?”

                      They ask the question that you feel can only make you look bad, so how do you handle it?

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                      Remember the reason they are asking you these questions is because they want to find out who you are really are. They need to know who they are employing, so remember they are not trying to trick you.

                      Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has new things they need to learn. Everyone has something they wished they had handled differently. Everyone has something they’ve said they regretted.

                      Think of a moment in your professional life that you wish you had handled differently. How can you word it so that it sounds like you not only recognized the need to do something differently but learned something powerful from it too?

                      If you want to see how this works. Listen to the radio and a seasoned pro turn any question around so that they get to talk about what they want to.

                      I once trained a team who were likely to end up on the radio. They knew they weren’t going to be asked to speak about their business (which they wanted to) and it was likely to be a conversation about something random like mince pies. I remember one member of the team saying, “this is impossible” only for us to change their style of communication that meant within 2 sentences talking about mince pies had turned into talking about what the business was doing locally.”

                      It takes practice but can be done and is a skill you won’t just use in interviews, you could find yourself using this in every area of your life.

                      Another skill to copy from presenters and those great at TV and radio is their ability to bat the conversation back to the other person in a respectful way. While the interviewer is keen to hear you speak, it’s important to know when to stop talking and enable the interviewer to take control of the conversation again.

                      A big issue for candidates is that they are so keen to say everything relevant to the subject that has been raised that they don’t know when to let the interviewer take back the conversational control.

                      By practicing what you are saying and what you want it to say about you, you will feel more comfortable with giving the control back.

                      Final thoughts

                      I heard a story years ago that the English Rugby team were playing atrociously. They then employed a coach (not a sport coach, but a coach like myself) to help the team perform better.

                      One of the strategies they put in place was that in the second half, the team would come back on the pitch in a clean kit. This enabled them to feel fresh and new to the game bringing a new attitude and mindset.

                      I’ve been unable to find any proof of this story (and I’m always keen to verify what I share with you). However, I can tell you that this clean kit approach has worked with many clients who’ve found themselves making a mistake and not wanting 1 mistake to spiral into a cacophony of failure.

                      That they stop dragging up what has gone wrong. Stop the panic from escalating and start as if this is the very beginning. It’s powerful because the brain gets itself back to a positive state.

                      Thus if you find yourself drowning in a bad answer, let it go and concentrate on the result you want. And get that fresh feeling of “I’ve arrived and will do my best” or “If I’m not right for them, then they are not right for me.”

                      What could be your go to thought that gets you back to fresh thinking be?

                      Ultimately an interview is like any powerful communication you have in your life. Be it at work, at home, your child’s school, your parents doctor or even trying to get a flight out of a fog bound city.

                      The skills you learn to communicate powerfully can have a knock on effect across your entire life. So it’s worth investing some time and honing your skills.

                      Featured photo credit: Andrew Worley via unsplash.com

                      More by this author

                      Mandie Holgate

                      Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

                      How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve Success What Happiness Is and Is Not: The True Meaning of Being Happy Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective? 13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life)

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                      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

                      Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

                      In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

                      5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

                      Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

                      1. Be Clear About the Objectives

                      Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

                      It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

                      Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

                      2. Keep Them Realistic

                      It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

                      It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

                      3. Account for Inflation

                      Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

                      Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

                      For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

                      4. Short Term vs Long Term

                      Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

                      As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

                      More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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                      5. To Each to His Own

                      The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

                      It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

                      By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

                      11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

                      Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

                      • Ensuring healthy savings
                      • Making smart investments

                      You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

                      Ensuring Healthy Savings

                      Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

                      This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

                      1. Track Expenses

                      The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

                      Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

                      2. Pay Yourself First

                      Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

                      Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

                      The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

                      Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

                      3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

                      Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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                      Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

                      At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

                      Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

                      You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

                      4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

                      Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

                      If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

                      Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

                      All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

                      5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

                      In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

                      Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

                      Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

                      If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

                      If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

                      So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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                      6. Talk About It

                      Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

                      Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

                      7. Maintain a Journal

                      For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

                      So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

                      Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

                      When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

                      At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

                      Making Smart Investments

                      Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

                      8. Consult a Financial Advisor

                      Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

                      Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

                      9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

                      Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

                      Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

                      Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

                      It is here where that classification will help.

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                      So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

                      10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

                      Einstein once remarked about compounding,

                      Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

                      So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

                      Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

                      11. Measure, Measure, Measure

                      All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

                      If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

                      If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

                      Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

                      The Bottom Line

                      This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

                      As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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                      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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