Here’s how to respond to tough interview questions
WITH BRADSTON SAKAMOTO
SOCIETY FOR HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT HAWAII CHAPTER VOLUNTEER, AND MANAGING CONSULTANT AND OWNER OF OD SOLUTIONS LLC, A KAMAAINA SEARCH AND HR SERVICES CONSULTING FIRM
Aloha everyone. I wanted to thank everyone for reaching out to me via Linkedin.com after my last article. Some of you had really great questions that made me realize that they are probably ones shared by many of our readers. Here are a couple of questions that really stood out:
Q: I noticed that you have not listed your past supervisor at this company you listed on your resume as a reference — can you share with me why or why not?
A: We all know that all of us have had at least one difficult supervisor or boss that, for one reason or another, may not be able to give you a favorable reference. If you know for a fact that he/she is no longer at that company, you can relay that information to the interviewer and advise that you do have other contacts at your former company that can speak to your work. However, if that person is still there — be honest about the relationship but try to identify verifiable common ground. Acknowledge that your working relationship with your past supervisor may have been strained at times but he/ she would never question your dedication to your work, your team and your ability to meet deadlines. Provide your past supervisor’s contact information to your prospective employer, but be clear it’s to verify employment and not as a professional reference. Most companies require managers to refer all employment verification inquiries to human resources; chances are, your past manager will do the same.
Q: What’s your greatest weakness?
A: This one has almost become a throw-away question due to the fact that most candidates will try to identify responses that make themselves still sound positive. When I used to be in corporate HR, I used to ask this question but tell the candidate that they couldn’t tell me the following: “I’m a workaholic, I don’t know how to delegate, I don’t know how to say no, I care too much about work or I’m too detail oriented.” The reactions I’d get from the candidate were priceless since I took away one of their go-to responses that most interviewers are used to hearing and not make any real impact in their hiring decisions.
What I recommend is to identify a real weakness, but more importantly describe to the interviewer how you resolved it. For instance, if it’s time management — describe how you discussed the problem with your boss at the time or a business mentor. Explain the steps they recommended to you to address the problem whether it be through self-help manuals, business coaches or online resources. The key is to show that through careful planning and hard work, you were able to mitigate the problem so it no longer affects your professional performance. Remember, a good manager knows that no candidate is perfect and that self-awareness and problem solving abilities are the characteristics that they seek in their next hire. Good luck!