Theresa May has resigned. So, senior members of the Conservative Party are currently vying to be the person to replace her as both party leader and Prime Minister, (though nothing is certain in the current world of UK politics!). As they attend the various hustings and debates, they are basically being subjected to a prolonged and very public job interview.
During one televised leadership debate, the candidates were asked a classic interview question by a member of the audience. Can you describe what you greatest weakness would be?
Who gave the best answer?
Well Boris Johnson didn’t take part in the debate. Tip #1: always turn up for your interview!
Of the five candidates who took part, three of them chose to avoid any suggestion of weakness. They took the “let me show you how strong I am” approach. Michael Gove emphatically stated “I’m a man in a hurry” to get things done. Dominic Raab took a similar line abut being restless for change. Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt talked about stubbornly sticking to their opinions.
But are these really weaknesses in a leader? Possibly. But aren’t committing to opinions and wanting to get things done quickly positive attributes if used the right way? Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when Politicians turn a question on it’s head to suit their purpose?
Ignoring any political preferences, the answer from Rory Stewart took a very different approach. “I don’t know where to start. I’ve got a lot of weaknesses.” He went on to talk about being human. He used words like “frail” and said that, from the life he has led, there’s so much that he doesn’t know or understand about the world. That sounds like a more genuine answer. But do the interview panel want to hear that you are not up to the job?
What are interviewers looking for?
Your interviewers want to find out as much as they can about you as an individual and if you are a good match for the job in hand. They want to know about your experiences, your opinions, your disposition and your attitude. They want to know about your successes and your failures and how you deal with them. You are unique. So, model answers simply don’t work.
Many interviewers have moved away from the standard “What are your strengths” question. It typically results in a very rehearsed response. So, they are more likely to look for proof of your positive attributes by exploring specific examples of your experiences. Directly asking “What are your weaknesses” is probably more common than the strengths question these days.
They ask this question for a few reasons. First, they want to uncover your levels of self-awareness. You aren’t perfect. So how honest are you with yourself? Next, they want to check your awareness of the role you will take on. What do you expect to find difficult if you get the job?
The best way to answer?
Thorough preparation is essential for any interview. Our approach to interview preparation is to guide you through a detailed review of your experiences as the method to identify strengths and weaknesses. Our recommendation is to confidently share the things that you find difficult or where you may have gaps in your experience. But it’s the next point which can make the biggest impression on your interviewers.
At very least, you must be able to describe how you will ensure you perform well in the role and manage any shortfalls. Even better, you will impress if you can describe proactive steps you have already taken.
For example, if you identify that it would help to explore different leadership styles then it makes sense to do something about that. Alternatively you may benefit from learning a more structured approach to managing change. Or, if the role you are seeking involves guiding less experienced doctors then developing your mentoring skills would make sense.
What do you need to work on to perform at your best?
Stephen McGuire – Managing Director