In job interviews, we’re often asked about our strengths and weaknesses. Most of us know automatically how to respond.
Common wisdom tells us to use faux weaknesses — things that are strengths described as negatives and turned into positives. You might even be able to maneuver your weakness into a skill for a job you’re not fully qualified for.
But are there actual weaknesses that you can easily turn into strengths, deficiencies you can overcome? And what would that mean for your career? Could you round out weak spots enough to even land a job you’re not entirely qualified for? These are topics several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week. Here is what two of them had to say:
Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive at Rakuten Inc
“In America, the 2015 Super Bowl will soon be played. In this championship game you are unlikely to see athletes showing weakness,” wrote Mikitani in his post, Turn Your Weakness Into Your Strength. “If the athletes become hurt in this game, they will hide their injuries — they don’t want their competitors to know their weak spots.”
But, he wrote, “there is absolutely no need to act like this in business.”
At work and in business, “you can have deficiencies because these can be overcome and turned into strengths,” Mikitani wrote. “The only truly fatal thing is to not realise that all weaknesses can be made strong.”
Of course, to make up for deficiencies, you must first be aware of what your weaknesses really are. Once you’ve done that, Mikitani offers some advice for turning those negatives into true positives.
“Study what you don't know. Even if you do not take formal classes, get the books you need and make time every day for study,” he wrote.
“Practice what you are weak in,” he added. “At Rakuten, we have made becoming proficient in English a priority. Often, employees will gather in small groups in the morning, before the work day begins, to practice conversation. This is not work-related conversation — they may discuss restaurants they like or a sports team they follow. The purpose is simply to practice.”
Practicing in areas where you are weak is a sure way to improvement.
Liz Ryan, chief executive and founder at Human Workplace
Ever wonder what happened when you interview for a job you’re fully qualified for, but it goes to someone who doesn’t seem to be qualified at all? How’d that person get the job “when he had none of the qualifications listed in the job ad?,” wrote Ryan in her post How To Get A Job You’re Not Qualified For.
That applicant figured out the business pain point “that is seldom, if ever, mentioned in the job ad, and then how to address it,” she wrote. “[He] wrote a compelling letter, first… He went to the job interview. He didn’t talk about how he met each of the requirements on the job ad. [He] had none of the qualifications.”
He asked questions instead. “He asked probing questions to learn more about the business pain,” Ryan wrote. By doing so, this less-qualified person soon learned that the hiring managers needed something different from what was listed in the job ad, and perhaps someone surprising traditional for the role.
Not accepting the “job ad as gospel” is key. “As formal and well-planned-out as the business world may look from the outside, in reality it's chaotic on the inside. Critical decisions often get very little thought,” Ryan added. “There is no reason to think that hiring managers actually know what they need when they write job ads. They may need someone completely different than what they describe.”
“That's why you can get a job you're not qualified for — on paper,” she wrote.
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