Speaking of job interview questions and answers … I was just watching an old episode of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles on Bravo TV. (Do I judge you?) And it had the perfect example of what NOT to say in an interview when asked the very common “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.
To fill you in, this is not a show about great interview techniques. Or even how to get a job. It’s a show about three hungry, aggressive real estate brokers in Los Angeles — mostly in the exclusive neighborhoods of Hollywood, Malibu, and Beverly Hills. The brokers for this particular season are named Chad, Josh, and Madison.
Cut to Madison’s trusty assistant giving him notice just as he got the biggest listing of his life. Oh no! We’re talking many millions. So he needs help FAST. And that means we get to see him interview potential candidates. Now I’m really interested!
The interview Q & A begins…
Next time we see Madison, he’s interviewing people for the job. I love that we get to be flies on the wall as we watch him handle some real live real estate job interviews. We’re shown segments of three of the job interviews, with three of the interviewees revealing their greatest weakness. And that’s why I decided to write this post.
The first actually let us know her weakness while answering a different question. (I’d try to be careful about this, btw. In interviews, less is often more.) But I’m including it anyway, since it’s a great example of what not to do!
She went for an interview with a top, high-powered broker and told him like hey wow she needs like free time for her art work and other personal interests. That may be true, and I do always say be yourself, but … WHAT was she doing in this interview in the first place? She wasted her time and his.
Weakness in action & lessons learned…
Lesson 1: Know what the job is and who you are
Don’t go to the job interview unless you can handle the requirements. And really want the job you’re interviewing for. I know that sounds painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised how wide people cast their interview nets sometimes.
Of course, there’s no harm in going for a job if you at least think it might be for you. But please do yourself and the interviewer a favor: First research the industry and job requirements.
Even if Madison (or any boss) makes the mistake of not being specific about the workload in the ad, you should make it your job to investigate what the job requires (both beforehand or during the interview).
And if you still want the job, despite needing time for your creative pursuits or whatever, then don’t undercut yourself by telling the boss the job is only a means to an end. People who are passionate about their work want to hire people who will be dedicated to helping them excel. If that is not you — and for many it isn’t — then don’t even think about taking the job.
But if you actually think it might be for you, please give an answer that shows you’re excited about the opportunity to work there. And that you’ll dedicate yourself to making your boss a star. You can talk about your creativity later on after you’re hired. You can even find ways to apply it to your job. But for now, don’t show them that your mental energy is already out the door!
Lesson 2: Don’t ever say you’re not organized, ok?
The next interviewee was asked her greatest weakness. And she answered “Well… sometimes I’m not very organized.” NEXT! Seriously, if I’m looking to hire someone, the one thing I absolutely want the person to be is ORGANIZED. So never never never admit that’s your weakness!
Lesson 3: Express weakness as a strength where possible
So now we come to the third interviewee. (Feels a little like Goldilocks, doesn’t it?) She was asked her greatest weakness. And she said sometimes she expects a lot of others, because she expects so much of herself. BINGO!
She hit the golden prize — especially because of who her potential boss is and what he values. (Smart to look for those clues as you listen to the person interviewing you. And when you research them, if possible.)
Madison saw himself in that answer and loved it. Not that you should all go use THAT answer, but it was a smart move on her part. And yes … she got the job.
Bonus interview tip for greatest weakness question
Remember to keep your answer brief as to what the actual weakness is. No need to plant that seed in their mind. And then expand by talking about what you’ve done to improve or even overcome the weakness. This way you leave the interview session on a positive note.
If you’d like to read more about how to answer interview questions like this, here are some posts that might help:
[Post updated 2020]
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About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.