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In an Interview for college admission and job

Often questions are asked like “ What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Now telling the strength is comparatively easy but what should one say in weaknesses. I have always had problem with pointing out my weaknesses [I know this is a weakness but still…].
Second is “ What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?”. What sort of mistake should one say here.
Are there any “weaknesses” and “mistakes” which one should say? Or should avoid at any cost?
To be frank what is the easy way out, without saying too negative about yourself. ;)

Thanks!
Permalink Another posters... 
March 11th, 2005
You tell them to fuck off, and go and find yourself someone sane to interview you for a real position.
Permalink Jonathan 
March 11th, 2005
If anyone asked a question such as these in an actual interview, I would laugh in their face.
Permalink Mr Jack 
March 11th, 2005
First, don't claim to have no weaknesses at all. Everyone has some, and it indicates either blatant arrogance or lack of self-awareness to claim you have none.

Second, don't claim things like "I work too hard" as weaknesses as a way to smooch up to the interviewer. It's obvious that you're doing it.

Third, don't lie. They'll find out the truth eventually.

Fourth, don't tell them you're lazy. Everyone is, in their own way, and to admit it is to tell them it's bad enough not to hire you.

Pick things like "I think I could use more knowledge in the domain of X" where X is something they probably would be willing to train you in eventually but is not critical to doing your job.

Basically, pick things that you know are honest weaknesses, but indicate that you are very willing to work to improve them.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 11th, 2005
As far as mistakes, they're basically the same as weaknesses if you think about it. Don't reveal dating mistakes - not appropriate to discuss in an interview.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 11th, 2005
Watch the job interview scene in Trainspotting for great tips on handling these questions.
Permalink puppet 
March 11th, 2005
This same topic has been discussed endlessly on a million boards.

-Everyone has weaknesses, and everyone has screwed up. If you can't identify a harmless variant of either where you can demonstrate that you're self-aware and can take corrective action, you're either not very clever, or delusional.

-This is an absolutely standard question at all types of firms. Be prepared for it. If you tell every interviewer who asks this to go F-themselves, you'd be left with a very small selection of jobs.

The question is not a literal question (as most interview questions aren't) - it's a game of sorts. Play it right.
Permalink Dennis Forbes 
March 11th, 2005
Dennis hit the point. Questions of this sort are a "social noise" or a "social dance." Like when someone asks you "how are you?" they are never ever looking for the truth, nor for an actual answer.

Your homework is to come up with a prepared answer that makes the "weakness" sound like a strength instead. Answers that have been used too much include variations of "I work too hard" or "sometimes I get impatient with underperforming co-workers." Be able to come up with an example or 2, and be able to talk about them for a bit.
Permalink Peter 
March 11th, 2005
Thanks everyone.
Sorry. I was a bit lazy. A quick google search and I got what I wanted. It seems now I have started finding reasons to throw words here and there on the forum. Sorry.

http://www.ocjobsite.com/job-articles/greatest-weakness.asp

http://www.resumagic.com/interviews_findaquestion.html

http://www.careerjournaleurope.com/jobhunting/interviewing/20041006-hirsch.html

Thanks again.
Permalink Another posters... 
March 11th, 2005
My greatest strength?

Responding to questions like this.

My greatest weakness?

Being asked questions like this.
Permalink I am Jack's palatable palette 
March 11th, 2005
My greatest strength?

Responding to <posts> like this.

:)
Permalink Another posters... 
March 11th, 2005
i went though an interview just recently at microsoft and they didn't ask this question

for that matter they didn't ask any puzzles and virtually no coding questions either
Permalink going to the collective 
March 11th, 2005
Hehe. I don't mean to sound harsh, but that sounds like they spoke to you a bit and decided they wouldn't embarrass you with a real interview. They probably gave you a token tour as well.
Permalink ,..., 
March 11th, 2005
I was once asked a similar question "Tell me about a time when it all went wrong."

Okay, so I'll tell you about a time when it all went wrong. But you won't know the company, you won't know any of the people involved, you won't in the slightest be able to infer whether it was my fault, or whether "things went wrong" because of some greater dynamic. Besides, if you ask me, you'll only get my side of events, and this assumes I'm truthful.

I *want* to tell the interviewer to go fuck themselves because they're wasting my time. What I actually do is calmly take the middle of the road, have a little laugh, and be sure not to sound too badly affected by upsetting past experience or disappointments (as I'm sure we've all had).

It's a waste of time because it's a little game, and everyone plays by these rules. Consequently, the question isn't scientific in the slightest.

If you're worried about difficult personalities, bullshit artist, awkward egotists, communication deficiencies, or social interaction ability, then set up appropriate scenarios in your interview. If you're hiring programmers, Joel has been through all the details, Peopleware has been through all the details, the "Microsoft style" meet-some-of-the-people interview has been well documented.

My earlier response was largely emotional, I admit. Through my own inexperience in the past, I have fallen into a poor job at a 'rotten apple' company. The problem was basically: Experienced business partner leaves, key staff leave, inexperienced owner takes over and hires crap people, reasonable company goes down the pan.

As a result of my experience with this, I now place much weight on the content of the interview itself, since I consider this a direct reflection on the quality and ability of the people at the company itself.

Having an interviewer reel off a list of generic-HR www.monster.com job interview questions simply doesn't cut it with me.
Permalink Jonathan 
March 11th, 2005
nice theory, except I have my offer already
Permalink going to the collective 
March 11th, 2005
and yes it's for an sde job
Permalink going to the collective 
March 11th, 2005
My interview process with the company I am with now seemed to indicate that it would be as good of a place to work as I'd heard. They didn't ask questions like this. Most everything was directly applicable to the particulars of my job.

That said, I think there is value to the 'when things went wrong' question. It lets you know if people learn from their mistakes. Personally, I'd rather have a 6 on the overall 'brightness' scale than an 8 that does not THINK because they generally have never had to.

No clue about the truth, but I've heard a story about a tech exec making a very bad choice for a well-known tech company. It cost the company millions. He was called into PHB's office and thinking he'd be fired, almost immediately started asking questions about severance when PHB started grinding him. PHB's response was that the company had just spent millions training him, so if he thought he was getting off that easy, he was nuts. I think there's some wisdom in that.
Permalink I am Jack's inevitable interview 
March 11th, 2005
+1 to anyone who said interviewing is a game. The whole point is to rattle you or catch you in a lie. "It says here you spent 5 years resetting bear traps in the Alaskan Ozarks. You must have one frostbite/car wouldn't start story, how do you handle these situations?"
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 11th, 2005
The best way to deal with a job interview is simply by not caring about the outcome.

http://www.gladwell.com/2000/2000_08_21_a_choking.htm
Permalink MarkTAW 
March 11th, 2005
"You must have one frostbite/car wouldn't start story, how do you handle these situations?"

Eh? I flew in every day from California!
Permalink Jonathan 
March 11th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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