At a recent interview I was stumped by the common question about what I feel are my weaknesses. I knew it was a standard question, and did prepare for it at some stage, though when it was time to respond I almost drew a complete blank. The question followed in order from what I thought were my strengths. So perhaps I had not quite finished being in “beat my chest” mode. Or perhaps the answer I thought I’d go with didn’t really resonate well enough.
When I’m nervous or feel awkward with a silence I often lead with a gag. I guess I was nervous or felt awkward, cause my first statement was along the lines of “I should give you my wife’s phone number, she can share a long list of my weaknesses”. It’s not even true, though critical wife gags are quicker to devise than a thoughtful self-analysis.
There was a bit of a pause to give me time to think, and I did fumble through with an answer which seemed OK, though definitely not great.
So I realised, I was very weak at describing my weaknesses!
The benefit of things going less than ideal, it leads me to contemplate on a better answer.
I thought I’d get this down, and perhaps review it over time.
Perhaps posting such a topic to a blog with open comments is a way to crowd source better answers – or just trolling.
Most of the research suggests the question is used to test whether the candidate is self aware, and mature enough to realise short-comings, and whether they have made adjustments to become more effective.
I’ve certainly thought for long enough about my short-comings, and this is a good enough place to consider what adjustments to become better.
Ryan Brinkworth’s Weaknesses:
- A perfectionist
For quite some time, mostly with my own work I’ve had a desire for things to be perfect. My preference would be to work on things forever, to prevent passing it on for people to identify faults with it. Being a perfectionist is apparently something I inherited from my father, and he inherited it from his father. Though, I’ve been intent on breaking with the tradition. I’ve seen value in getting stuff out there, and have even made it into a habit to share early drafts, to the point where I get a buzz with quantity of documents & revisions, rather than the quality.
I’ll still pick the eyes out of my work, and other things that have been handed to me. Though I recognise, the value addition of a perfect piece of work is too low to warrant the amount of time it takes to make one.
In the past, such as my university days, I was tremendously poor at being organised. It was a bit of a curse how I could crunch many weeks effort into a single evening or two and still get through with flying colours. Because I was such a gifted scrambler, it almost encouraged the behaviour of not staying on top of deadlines or where things were up to. As I got older though, and the stakes become higher – such as having a family, I realised how stressful these situations are and that things would get missed. It made me recognise the need to change significantly.
Many people talk about dull books that change their lives. My eyes usually glaze over when I hear this. For me, that one book did change my life in terms of my organisation was Getting Things Done by David Allen. I’ve read many management and productivity books, think they’re useful, then very soon after I’d regularly, and quite happily ignore the advice. The “GTD” system though, is something I can continue to use every day, since reading the book quite a few years ago. Thanks to recognising that I was making things unnecessarily tough, and missing out on opportunities, I knew I could become far more organised with life and work. And having a good system has really put far more focus on the proactive tasks, and reviews that I now enjoy.
So, while I managed to get by quite well without being organised. I feel I am living life far better now because I’m staying on top of things thanks to a change in my behaviour and trusty processes I live each day.
Perhaps related to Weakness #1 about being a perfectionist, I have noticed I tend to prefer to base some of my decisions and actions on theories of what is right or wrong – in place of feelings, experience, or hearsay. In some respects, this is what university equipped me with as a strength. However, in different roles and situations I’ve learned that this is not terribly useful at times.
— Cameron L Morrissey (@ManagersDiary) October 27, 2013
Having a theoretical base is useful, as the thinking work and path to success is often done for you. Though, some audience or personality types are repelled by such assertions. I could argue why that’s the case, though it’s not useful here.
Regardless, I do see a purely theoretical approach as a weakness. My career has always included some level of practice or experience, and over time I see I’m moving away from my ideals about what the best theory may be, and I’m often leading now with what I see are the practical and pragmatic approaches. They will support a theory, but they’re not a theory alone. That would be terribly weak.
This was the end of my initial list of thoughts, if I was able to answer the interview question over again.
It probably goes without saying I am still trying to perfect the response in my head. Though please note, I have blogged my Weaknesses before it’s all perfect. So I am certainly making progress.