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Few interview questions create more anxiety than asking an applicant to detail his biggest weakness. Increasingly, though, interviewers no longer want the candidate to weigh in on his shortcomings, which elicits overly rehearsed answers. Instead, savvy hiring managers will raise open-ended questions that force the interviewee to open up about past conflicts, failures and relationships at work. How you respond in these situations will either prompt a second look, or cross you off the interviewer's list.
Conflicts at Work
Every employee responds differently to conflicts with co-workers and supervisors. To gauge your people skills, an interviewer might ask for an example of a problem that you've encountered, and how you resolved it. The best response, according to "Forbes" magazine, is focusing on specific measures that you undertook to address the issue. The interviewer will draw some inferences from your response -- so don't just throw out complaints, which will ruin your chances.
To throw an applicant off prepared answers, an interviewer might ask, "What did you find unfair about your last job?" However, this question's wording is dangerous, since it invites you to openly criticize your boss -- which is a universal turn-off to any interviewer, "U.S. News & World Report" advises. Like many questions of this sort, you'll want to discuss positive steps that you took to change things, such as going to the human resources department, for example.
Relationships are a natural point of interest for hiring managers, who want to see how you'll fit in. Don't be surprised if he asks what former co-workers -- or current references -- would say about you. While candidates are expected to talk up their strengths, those comments carry greater weight when other people support them, the HCareers website notes. However, any inconsistencies between your response -- and those third-party comments -- will raise doubts about your candidacy.
Motivation and Character
Career transitions can be positive or negative, so it's logical for interviewers to ask, "Why do you want to leave your current job?" While money is a common motivation, it's better to cite other factors first -- such as the need for new career challenges, or desire to advance yourself. Concerns about the organization's financial stability may also strike a chord, the HCareers website says. A good answer should incorporate one or all of these reasons.
Sometimes, the interviewer comes right out and asks an applicant to identify his weaknesses. In trying to answer, candidates often reveal more about themselves than they think, "U.S. News & World Report" states. A good response is to cite weaknesses that you've looking to overcome. For example, you might indicate that you overbook yourself, and show how you're learning to set priorities. The key is to avoid mentioning any qualities that suggest you're not right for the job.
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.
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