MONICA: Liz, I love your advice and as an HR person I’ve put several of your ideas into practice. Still, I have to ask you — why do you hate the interview question “What’s your greatest weakness?”
LIZ: Let’s go in the opposite direction. Why do you like that question?
MONICA: Because it’s revealing. It tells me whether a job applicant knows themselves or not.
LIZ: Is it important for a job applicant to ‘know themselves’ in the way you describe?
MONICA: I think it is! I think everybody should know themselves.
LIZ: Do you believe that everyone has weaknesses?
MONICA: Of course! Everyone does have weaknesses — after all, no one is perfect.
LIZ: How would you feel if a job applicant asked you “What’s your greatest weakness, Monica?”
MONICA: I wouldn’t like it if a job applicant asked me that question, because I’m the interviewer. If I were interviewing for a job, I’d happily answer the question.
LIZ: So you believe that employers sit on a higher plane than job-seekers do?
MONICA: Well, I mean, yes — the employer has the big decision to make – Which candidate should I hire?
LIZ: Really? The employer is only hiring one new person. They already have a bunch of employees on the team. In the whole scheme of things, one new hire is a fairly small decision. The job-seeker has the really big decision to make. Are these the right people for me to work with?
When someone takes a new job, it affects their brand forever. The job will impact their resume and their self-esteem, their relationships and even their health. Taking a job or turning a job down is a huge life decision. Why do you say that the employer has the bigger decision to make?
MONICA: Because we have to assume logically that if the applicant didn’t want the job, they wouldn’t have come to the interview.
LIZ: By that logic we would also conclude that the interviewer wouldn’t have come to the interview if they weren’t ready to hire the applicant. The candidate showed up to learn more — the same way you scheduled the interview to learn more about him or her. It’s a false assumption that people who go to job interviews already know they want the job.
MONICA: Okay, I’ll give you that one. I still think the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” is valid. What do you hate about it?
Source | Harvard Business Review : By Joseph Grenny
Yan Wang, the former CFO of VitalSmarts, didn’t survive Mao’s China by taking outlandish risks such as questioning those in positions of authority. As our CFO, she did impeccable work with the highest ethical standards. But challenging the status quo was deeply unsettling to her — especially if it meant critiquing the actions of one of our company owners.
She was literally trembling one day when she suggested to my colleague Al that the few dollars he was bringing home from selling copies of our book at public events was hardly worth the time it took our accounting team to process them. She fumbled around the issue until Al said, “So what are you suggesting I do, Yan?” She gulped an enormous amount of air and finally confessed, “It would be smarter to just give them away.” Al agreed. Yan was almost always right. It just took a while to figure out what her opinion was.
YOU AND YOUR TEAM SERIES
Fast-forward a decade. Our company had grown tenfold, and so had Yan. She had become the backbone of accountability in our company. No one, including major shareholders, was off-limits when it came to maintaining standards and creating a culture of fiscal stewardship. Her team was at the forefront of identifying ways to maximize our margins.
Yan’s story is not uncommon. Our research shows that 97% of people can readily identify a career-limiting habit they have. We’re unreliable, lack empathy, avoid conflict, or fear risk. While we’re clear that our weaknesses cost us both personally and professionally, few of us make any progress in turning them into strengths. In fact, managers report that after giving people feedback in a performance review, fewer than 10% of them look any different a year later. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like Yan, we can make substantial change in relatively short order. The key to improving most weaknesses is to:
Identify Crucial Moments
Chronic weaknesses are usually not due to simple cognitive or behavioral gaps in our abilities. When you’re sitting in your office with a daunting presentation to prepare, and you keep checking your inbox and returning calls instead, it isn’t because you are bad at prioritizing. Rather, you are playing out a deeply habitual and practiced response to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, or fear.
Two years ago, a young woman named Michele Hansen spotted a job opening that piqued her interest. She wasn’t qualified—the posting was for a product manager at an investment company, and she had no experience in financial services.
In that situation, the voice in your head screams for self-promotion. If you’re applying for a job, you know you need to bend over backward to hide your shortcomings. As an interviewer, when I ask candidates to name their biggest weaknesses, they usually respond with strengths in disguise. I work too hard. I’m too much of a perfectionist. I only won a silver medal in the Olympics.
But Michele Hansen did the exact opposite. She took a page out of George Costanza’splaybook on Seinfeld: “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” Instead of trying to hide her limitations, she led with them:
“I’m probably not the candidate you’ve been envisioning,” her cover letter began. “I don’t have a decade of experience as a Product Manager nor am I a Certified Financial Planner.”
Hansen got the job. And she isn’t alone. In one study, interviewers gave the highest ratings to business school applicants who were more concerned with being seen accurately than positively. In another study, Harvard researchers asked undergraduates to answer a job interview question about their weaknesses. Only 23 percent gave actual negative qualities: I procrastinate. I overreact to situations. The other 77 percent hid their weaknesses inside a humblebrag: I’m too nice. I’m too demanding when it comes to fairness. When collaborators reviewed the answers, they were 30 percent more interested in hiring the candidates who acknowledged a legitimate weakness.
Although applicants believe self-promotion is the ticket to landing a coveted job, the evidence shows otherwise. Undergraduates who played up their skills and accomplishments were not significantly more likely to get job offers. Executives who tried to impress board members with their qualifications did not succeed in landing more board seats. And employees who went out of their way to highlight their successes had substantially lower salaries and promotion rates. Compared to flattery and favors, researchers James Westphal and Ithai Stern explain, “self-promotion is less consistently effective… it is less subtle and more transparent.”
In a pair of experiments, Alison Fragale and I found that self-promotion only paid off when the audience was distracted enough to remember the information but forget the source. Otherwise, they saw right through it: “If you were that great, you wouldn’t need to boast about your greatness.”
Of course, you can’t get a job if you only focus on your inadequacies. After confessing her lack of relevant experience, Michele Hansen devoted the rest of her cover letter to explaining why she had the motivation and skills to succeed anyway. “I don’t wait for people to tell me what to do and go seek for myself what needs to be done,” she wrote. “I’m entrepreneurial, I get things done… I love breaking new ground and starting with a blank slate.”
For years now it has been true that it’s much easier to perform a job than to get the job.
Many corporate and institutional functions and activities have devolved over the past 20 years, but the recruiting process in virtually every medium-sized and large employer has devolved the most.
These days it is a trial to get through the typical recruiting process. It seems that employers in their zeal to hire the perfect person for the job have added so many steps and layers to the recruiting pipeline that receiving a job offer is more often a test of your perseverance than a reflection of your talent.
The brokenness in the recruiting process and paradigm has to change, and it will change as employers wake up to the fact that a charged-up and capable team is their only true competitive advantage.
Some of them are starting to get the message, and some organizations have always known that only the talent and commitment of their team members could set them apart from their rivals.
When you interview for a job these days, you’re likely to run into unqualified and unprepared interviewers, goofy and insulting steps in the recruiting process and stupid interview questions that will make you want to get up and leave.
If you go to a job interview and the signs are everywhere that the people you’re dealing with are not people you could work with and for, you can certainly get up and leave the interview room.
You are free to come and go as you please!
If your gut is screaming, “You don’t have time for these goofballs,” then do it — just rise from your chair, extend your hand for a friendly parting handshake and say, “I’m so grateful for your time today — it’s been wonderful to meet you but I hate to take up any more of your time, since it’s not going to be a great fit between me and this job. I wish you and your team all the best” — and scram.
Everyone will have an inherent aptitude in doing something better and they feel happy when they activate that instinct. While this search for happiness is the ultimate human goal, many would settle down for small things, but achievers won’t stop since they know where they want to go and make sure that they move in that direction, rising progressively, writes, M.R.Chandramowly
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a thousand rupees note and asked, “Who would like to have this?” Many hands went up. He said, “That’s fine, before I give this away, let me do this.” He crumpled the note and then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air. “Well”, he continued, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. “Now, who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air. He made the audience to learn a lesson. No matter what he did to the currency, people still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth, Rs.1000. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, one will never lose individual worth and value.
The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or whom we know, but on discovering who we are. “ The idea of sticking to what you are good at is the foundation for a whole new approach in management … and each person the most room for growth in the area of his greatest strength” says Donald Clifton(Play to your Strengths). Highly successful entrepreneurs, as well as top scientists, artists, athletes and entertainers throughout history have achieved greatness by focusing on their areas of strength.
Discovering the latent strength
Everyone has a natural ‘gift’ of an aptitude in something. You may be especially good at working with numbers, drawing pictures, teaching children, may love music, have athletic ability, good in writing, or working with your hands. How do you discover your natural talents? First, write down a list of those things that you do effortlessly. Next, make a list of those things you do and when doing those you may not notice the time fly by. Finally, write all the activities that makes feel great and fulfilling. Examine the three lists for commonalities, which are likely to be the areas of your natural aptitude and talent. These are the areas of your potential which if developed further can lead you to success.
Look in for persisting desires
What are your prolonged unfulfilled desires? What pulls you to do an activity? You look at some activity carried by others and strongly feel that you would like to do that. These yearnings trigger a magnetic force to do some thing. It starts from the child hood, doesn’t end when we grow up and it goes on filling our life. The young Rahul was the most talkative person in the class. During the second year I noticed that he was one of the active student in the entire college. His questioning and zeal to understand things compelled me to prepare more before delivering guest lectures on HR. He topped the class in the subject and moving on, he maintained contact with me and we use to have brief coaching sessions or discussion on career topics. He led several student groups in various student projects and demonstrations. I could see an emerging good communicator in him. He was able to clearly and powerfully express his thoughts carefully balancing it with concern for others. Few years later he came to my office. He shared with me his plan to start some coaching workshops on communication.
Today, he is heading Kapoor’s workshop on effective communication conducting programs for several organisations, besides earning a good name in event management. I am carefully watching his growth and success. He discovered the inner flame of power of communication and made use of the opportunities. He is continuing his effort in expanding his orbit and yet I have never missed his ‘thanks giving calls’ on any September 5th (Teacher’ Day) from last 10 years.
Feel the contentment when you do something right Reflect to recollect the moments of happiness in your personal life. A child is happy getting a new toy or a big toffee. After crawling for few weeks it achieves the balance to stand on its legs with the support of a wall .You can see a glowing happiness in the child, when it progresses. When the kid correctly writes the first word, reproduces the rhymes without missing the tune or beat, it is yet another stage of happiness. The kid grows up and discovers the emotional and psychological rewards for his achievements and gains an urge to do things to get happiness. While the search for happiness is the ultimate human goal, each one discovers his own path, pace and process. Those who constantly cling on to one level without moving up expanding their activity orbits may settle down for small things and they are happy with that. But the achievers won’t stop. They know where they want to go and make sure that they move in that direction and also converge their thinking and all actions towards that. They discover their core competence and rise progressively in their assignments, projects, work etc.
Amar and Zameer are at the age of 26. They have the same IQ, skills, say 100 units of behavioral and functional competencies. Both of them are IT engineers, and hold a postgraduate diploma in business management. Both of them had joined different organizations and drew almost similar compensation as project associates in the year 2001. During 2003 both have moved up in their salary and position. Amar sits back feels happy proud and comfortable with his progress and achievement at the same time Zameer’s fire is flaming up within him. He becomes more attentive and watches all the changes around him and within him.
He decides to build on new skills and widens his shoulder to take on more responsibilities. He is excited about multitasking and enjoys sharing his thoughts with others influencing them to move as well. In the process he is more thrilled about the vast opportunities and breadth and depth of ocean of learning. Over a period of time, during 2006, Zameer continues acquiring new competencies at a compounded growing rate of 6%. Amar grows at only 1% per year. Realise the difference of a bank account over 20 years earning, 3% V/S 8%. Similarly the career related capability of Amar at the age of 26 would have 122 units at 1% annual growth. Zameer bags over 320 units at 6% annual growth. At the age of 50, both Amar and Zameer are in two different leagues. Amar now is heading a unit of 300 employees and Zameer is a group technical director.
How did Zameer Succeed? He focused on his strengths. He experienced the immense satisfaction that comes in becoming superb at something, by using the Seven Wonders of the World; to touch, to taste, to see, to hear, to run, to laugh and to love.
M. R. Chandramowly is a Trainer and HR Solutions Facilitator. A Graduate in Science and a Post Graduate in Literature/Anthropology he has received course graduation from Covey Leadership, Competency Management Accreditation from SMR Inc, VOICES Certification from Lominger Inc, ‘Human Values’ from IIM Calcutta and ‘Silva Mind control’ from Australian Business Programs. Mowly, with 25 years of HR professional experience worked with organizations like MICO Bosch, PSI-Bull. and took to HR training and consulting after his last assignment as Corporate VP – HR for Praxair Group in India. An active contributor in the area of Leadership Competencies and HR Education. Mowly has trained executives of several organizations and published articles, presented theme papers in national and international HR conferences.
A visiting faculty teaching Business Ethics for Post Graduate HR, Mowly served as secretary of National HRD Network and facilitated HR workshops for National Institute of Personnel Management and Bangalore HR Summit. He is working on synthesizing eastern wisdom with western leadership competencies developing a learning module ‘Value Based Competencies’. The author is an HR Expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org