How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

This question is a standard interview question…and like every interview question… you need to be prepared to answer it.

Interviewing cWhile not a trick question ….it does give you a chance to torpedo what has otherwise been a good interview.

First – let’s examine what the interviewer is looking for. He or she knows no one is perfect and they are looking for someone who can admit that that they have made mistakes or are not without flaws. The interviewer is looking to see if you “know thine own self”…if you truthfully know those areas where special effort  is called for to address your weaknesses.

If you give an answer like “I really don’t have any I can think of” you come across as either conceited or naïve.

You have them… we all do. Think them through and what you do to address them or compensate for them.

Keep your answers in the professional realm; personal issues should not be raised. The fact that your home is messy or that you hate the traffic you endure to get to work has no place in a job interview discussion about weaknesses. Remember – the interviewer is trying to find out during the interview what they will know for sure about you after ninety days on the job!

Be sure the weakness you identify is one that has been resolved or where you have put into place mechanisms to address it and keep it in the background.

For example – “I used to be too much of a perfectionist – both in my own written work and of those that reported to me. I realized that the important thing is to get the work done error-free and on time or earlier. You can write and re-write until the cows come home – but the important thing is to proof once or twice and if it says what it is supposed to say – great.. shut it down and move on.”

Or – “I used to get upset about co-worker being five minutes late coming to work…after all – I am on time! Then it dawned on me that my co-workers were doing great work…the work got done ….and they weren’t coming in thirty minutes late…just five or ten and they made it up time-wise by often working through lunch. I was taking it personally that they came in late…and in retrospect – that is silly.”

Be sure the “weakness” you are going to disclose is not one that is injurious to the kind of job you are applying for. An accountant who says a weakness is “their obsession with detail” is not helping their cause – accountants need to be very concerned about detail! Rather state the weakness as “I used to check my work over and over to be sure it was perfect. I found out that once I double-checked the foot and cross-foot and carefully scanned the final work product I never made any changes. So I just check carefully and then move on to the next task at hand.”

A side advantage to preparing for this question is that it does give you a chance to examine yourself and re-examine what you have done in the past to address the issue and whether it is truly working or not. If not – here is a chance to further refine what you can do to address the shortcoming or weakness!

Remember – the job interview is “The Bridge Between You and Your Next Job”… you need to be prepared to answer every possible question – it is a critical step to getting a job offer! Some of the questions are easy – this one isn’t – prepare for it!!

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5 Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Your Job!

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Your Job!

Getting a new job is hard work…and you don’t want to undo it by either adopting or reverting to some really bad career habits! Whether you are new to the job….or you are a tenured employee…here are five habits of highly unsuccessful people. Purge them bad habitsfrom yourself and safeguard against them creeping into your daily behavior. These on-the-job-habits are often fatal to jobs …and careers if not corrected.

Fact – when your behavior becomes disruptive to team performance, attitude, moral and overall harmony – the boss’s job is to “fix it”. Often that means firing you if earlier steps of progressive discipline have failed to resolve it.

Fix these five factors in your mind and do a self-examination to see if you are guilty of any of them. Ask trusted co-workers if you are guilty of any of them. Job and career success are dependent on you NOT wearing any of these “hats”.

Keep in mind that the business section of the newspapers and publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Business Week have story after story of CEOs that have lost their jobs due to “management style”. This really means that they couldn’t get along with the right people; they have behavior habits similar to anyone of these five factors!

Ford Motor Company Chairman Henry Ford II fired the very successful Ford President Lee Iacocca with the comment “I just don’t like you” ending years of disharmony between  the two. An extreme example of mannerisms costing someone a job!

1. Gossip. Don’t participate in the chatter than can pollute a workplace. A comment or observation leads to someone turning it into a fact. People start discussing the non-fact and speculating on outcomes. At its extreme it undermines reporting relationships, creates distrust and can destroy the harmony of a team. Rest assured if you participate you will be quoted and if  your boss catches wind of your involvement one too many times … out you might go. The reason?….  “enough is enough”.

Use as your benchmark the “Momma and Washington Post (or your local newspaper) Rule”. Say nothing that you aren’t prepared to see quoted on the front page above the fold and delivered to your mom’s (or your boss’s) front door.

Stay away from those do gossip and if you must interact with them do so only in conjunction to the job to be done. When they raise the gossip factor, simply say “I do not want to discuss that or get into that….and you’d be wise to also do the same”.

2. Assertive or Aggressive Body Language. When making a point don’t stab your index finger in the air like a dagger – it is insulting and overly aggressive. Don’t cross your arms when others are talking – it says “I don’t agree”. Don’t roll your eyes when someone says something your disagree with – it mocks the point they are making. You need to avoid judgmental body language; when it gets to the point that no one wants to interact with you… it might be time for your boss to clean house.

3. Offensive and Inflammatory Statements. Avoid inflammatory statements such as “Let me tell you something” or “Trust me on this”. It isn’t just the words… they are usually accompanied by an assertive approach. When that occurs, it is a total annoyance at best on the part of whomever you are talking to. Purge from yourself those annoying (and predictable) statements and comments.

4. Mood and Attitude Swings. When you are up and enthusiastic one day and moody and uncommunicative the next, it confuses and annoys people. Consistency of behavior is important to teamwork and understanding co-workers. When your presence becomes a drag on others you have become a supreme annoyance to others. No one wants to work with a team member for whom the glass is usually  half empty! When it impacts productivity, it is not uncommon for a boss to step in to solve it…often by termination.

5. Poor Clock Management. Tardiness, late for meetings, reports and work not done on time, not returning phone calls in a timely manner (or not at all!) Reliability and dependability is critical to a team. You waste the time of others when you are not on time. It drives those that are on time nuts! Think “Lombardi Time”* …. 10 minutes early is ON TIME!

OK… unless you have an extremely tolerant boss, five  sure-fire ways to lose your job is to participate in any of these areas. Keep them in mind as you go through the work day and be determined to not let any of them represent who you are!

* “Lombardi Time” comes from a characteristic of the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi (the Super Bowl Lombardi Trophy is named for him). There are lots of different versions of what constitutes “Lombardi Time” as it became known. One is “Ten minutes early or it’s too late.” It became well known that Lombardi expected his players to be 10 (some say 15) minutes early for all meetings – what he actually told them probably varied, so an exact quote may not be possible to determine.

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4 Tips to Successfully Start a New Job!

4 Tips to Successfully Start a New Job!

Top 4Just as there is “only one first impression”…so it is with starting a new job. Start off poorly and you will at best be playing catch-up. You wrote and re-wrote your resume, you interviewed  successfully and accepted a job offer. There is still much to do to leverage that job offer into the next step towards a successful career!!

Print this blog post and carry it with you as you begin your new job. Refer to the 4 tips and be sure you follow them!!

1. Introduce yourself to everyone. Especially those in other departments that you run into in the cafeteria, parking lot, hallways, etc. With the same confident smile and handshake you used during all of your interviews. Have an introductory statement “Hi – my name is Robb Mulberger and I am the new controller  here at XYZ.” Make note of their name and ask where they work in the organization if it is not offered. As soon as you can write it down – in fact you can do it right on the spot with the comment “I have met so many new people here – I want to jot down your name to help me get acclimated!” Enter all of these into your contact list but also prepare a typed “cheat sheet” you will carry with you until you know who is who. Always address people by their names – “Hi Bill”…or “Good morning Susan” – not just a simple “Good morning” –  it will impress folks that you took the time to remember their name, especially those you don’t interact with on a regular basis!

2. Be organized. I use Outlook’s calendar feature synced to my iPhone. I make liberal use of the “alert” feature when adding an appointment or task via my iPhone (“reminder” on your PC’s Outlook access) to prevent me forgetting an appointment or pre-determined action to be taken (make a phone call, mail a document, etc.). I also print the Outlook calendar month-by-month for six months and carry it in my briefcase . On it I pencil in appointments since it was printed as I enter them either via my PC or iPhone. Never throw away past months – keep them as a diary of past events. The objective is to be really organized and never miss a task. Get up to speed with your employer’s internal communications processes (email, tele systems, etc.).

3. Create a job reference manual. In addition to the “cheat sheet” list of names and job responsibility you created, make note of other helpful pieces of information such as your new company’s website and site map to find employee information, mission statement, etc. During the interview and hiring process you no doubt determined how you would be evaluated and what the definition of success in your job is. Write this down in bold ….burn it into your brain… so as you go about your job you are focused on what is important to your success.

4. Listen more than you talk … at least during your first few months on the job. Be sure you know the “lay of the land” before you offer any opinions. Few things are more of a turn-off than a new person becoming a know-it-all! Listen and learn how things are done before you chime in.

OK… 4 tips to successfully starting a new job. Follow them and you will get off to a good start to career success!

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Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Interviewing can be stressful, especially if you have just started a round of it. Much hinges on how well you do… each interview is usually a “single elimination process” (do poorly and you are eliminated from consideration).

Some interviewers are better than others making you feel welcome…and some are downright brusque!

Hellmans Mayo LidFollow what I call “The Hellman’s Principle” when Interviewing! Mirror what used to be printed on the jar lid of Hellman’s Mayonnaise – “Keep Cool But Do Not Freeze”! (Today it says “Refrigerate After Opening Do Not Freeze” on the label – not the lid).

Follow the following 4 tips to minimize or eliminate the interview jitters:

Tip #1 – Preparation – The first “must” to staying cool and calm during an interview is Preparation. No substitute for it. Anticipate every question you will be asked, draft and re-draft until you have a perfect answer committed to paper…and then repeat it in rehearsal until you can just let it roll off your tongue. If possible, have someone ask the questions and you answer them, referring to your notes if needed – this kind of practice will result you in being able to do so without those notes.

Tip #2 – Be on time… and be at the right place – Nothing can cause you to be more frazzled  than running late stuck in traffic unless you are  late AND you can’t find the address of where you are supposed to be. Many office locations are hard to find: suburban office parks with building numbers you can’t easily see;  confusing street signs; GPS mapping software out of date, etc. If ANY doubt as to where to go and how long it will take to get thee (in traffic!) – do a dry run. And have you POC’s tele number in the phone with you to use to call if in fact you are running late (but don’t be!). Remember – on time is 10 minutes (or more!)  early!

Tip #3 – Dress and groom for success – Your discomfort level will be greatly increased  if you are significantly “under-dressed”. You don’t want to be “a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos”!. You can’t go wrong with dressing like you are headed to church or to a funeral. Subdued and business-like (not the latest fashions for sure!) is the byword.

Tip #4 – Get your mental game together. Think “I am well rested, I know where I am going and I will be there at least 10 minutes early. I have prepared to answer questions – I have rehearsed them and know them cold. I am dressed for success. There is no reason I won’t do well. I  may not get the job, but I will be a viable candidate for the job. This is not my only opportunity. I am gonna knock ‘em dead.”

Getting job offers entails interviewing… and you gotta be good at it to make the cut. Being your natural self and self-confident will help you master the interview process!

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For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

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