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Why I Ask Job-Seekers 'What's Your Greatest Weakness?'

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com


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It is. It’s a religion without God in it, but it has all the other characteristics of religious belief. You don’t have evidence for it. You just believe it to be true. You question anyone — me, for instance — who doesn’t share your belief. You believe so strongly that people must have weaknesses or deficiencies and that personal growth is a matter of fixing defects that you can’t imagine any other belief system.

- Well, honestly I don’t care what you think. I’m going to keep asking that question, and anyone who doesn’t want to share a weakness with me won’t get hired in my department.

Ah! That’s wonderful.

- What?

Earlier you said that you try to be rational and thoughtful in your recruiting. Just during this short conversation you’ve devolved to the logical system “My way or the highway!”

- Well, that’s how I feel.

That is fear, my friend. That is what people say when other people question their strongly-held beliefs. They put their fingers in their ears and say “I don’t care what you think! This is the way I want it! I’m the boss!”


- I just don’t like all the changes I’m seeing. It used to mean something, to be the boss.

It still means something. It means a lot. It’s a sacred responsibility.

- Sacred? I wouldn’t go that far.

It’s weighing on you — the responsibility. What if you let go of the belief that there are certain interview questions you absolutely have to ask, and let your next job interview unfold like a regular human conversation?

- I guess I wouldn’t feel that that process was very scientific.

You’d be right. It would be a human conversation. You’d learn a lot. You’d have to let your guard down.  You’d have to soften and be human. What could you learn from that experience?

- Why do I have to learn something?

Earlier you said that all of us have something to learn. What are you thinking about that topic now?

- I have to think about it.

Bravo! That’s a great answer. Change is hard.

- I like the old interview format.

Then I applaud you for trying something new. Lifelong learning, right?

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