Candidate weaknesses – how to get to the truth

Candidate weaknesses – how to get to the truth
Published: 19 September 2017

I love interviewing people and, having notched up more interviews than Parky, I have seen a distinct play towards focusing on strengths and downplaying weaknesses. 

The latter drives me crazy – stuff goes wrong, whether you anticipate it or not, and the common habit of turning a negative into a positive doesn’t always work well in an interview situation.

My digital world is full of firsts, and individuals are finding themselves in environments where not only are they unsure of what to do, but so is everyone else. Therefore it’s essential that you have a process to tackling the problems and dealing with failure.

How I get to the truth:

I’ve stopped asking about weaknesses or areas for development. No one gives an honest answer. What I ask is “tell me about the biggest mistake you’ve made at work that you wouldn’t want to repeat”.

Each time it gets the interviewee thinking, and they provide a much more detailed scenario of something that went wrong. The self-reflection means they inadvertently reveal more details than intended and that’s the beauty of it - you get a warts and all overview about the part they played, whether they noticed any warning signs or whether they were the protagonist who had to make the significant step change.

If you’re interviewing, why not introduce it? I’d love to hear the answers you get.

Kathryn Gallan specialises in recruiting Digital Leadership positions across all sectors.

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