Two common job interview questions that usually pop up are:
1. What you are your greatest strengths?
2. What are your greatest weaknesses and what are you doing to overcome them?
I had, myself, often been asked these seemingly innocuous questions, and I did, or thought I did, nail them both! I always thought I had very specific and authentic answers for each question, along with a story to illustrate each strength and weakness.
The strengths were highly relevant to the position I was being interviewed for. The weaknesses less relevant, but somehow I tried to use the question to show humble self-awareness and the desire to develop and improve.
I had always thought those questions were two of the most over-used interview questions asked by inexperienced employers. Anyone in the job market, or soon to be in the job market, should at a minimum have answers to those questions memorized and rehearsed. But alas, you see most interview candidates pause, stumble, and ramble on without knowing whether or not they impressed the interviewer.
Over many years in my career, I have developed a way to give them constructive feedback. I have heard it said many times that most Nigerian graduates, these days, are unemployable. Not entirely correct of course, but fact is, more than half of those I have come across did not have a clear handle on what their greatest strengths and weaknesses were. And this included graduates from the so called privately-owned tertiary institutions. Or if they thought they did, there was a mismatch between the person they thought they were and how they were perceived by others.
Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses is important in order to be a successful leader. Blind-spot weaknesses, often manifested as over-used strengths that may have served a leader well early in his career, will most likely derail him later if not identified and addressed. Attention to detail turns into micro-managing; confidence turns into arrogance, and being a good problem solver leads to an inability to delegate and develop others.
How aware are you of your strengths and weaknesses? If you are not already aware, could you answer the two questions about greatest strengths and weaknesses any better than any other candidate? It could well be that I answered these questions correctly when I was interviewed for my current position, but if I had to honestly answer the same questions today, I am sure my answers would be different.
So here is what to do: At least twice a year, take a few moments to answer those two questions. Then, if you have a weakness or over-used strength that is hindering your performance as a leader, create a development plan and do something about it. If you are not sure what your strengths or weaknesses are – or want to verify your self-assessment (which in most cases is inaccurate), do a 360 degree assessment and develop an improvement plan for your identified weaknesses. If you cannot do a 360 degree assessment, then ask your mentor to help you out. Or better still; ask others – your boss, co-workers, and colleagues – for their feedback. That is what the most successful leaders do – they are always on the look out for blind spots, and know when and how to adapt their behavior to the context of the situation they are faced with.
Do not wait for that next job interview to take stock of your strengths and weaknesses – do it on a regular basis, as a part of your ongoing development as a leader.
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