What’s your greatest weakness? – The Achilles Question.

I love to run. In recent years I’ve discovered the addiction of getting out in the early morning and pounding out the miles. For me it’s a form of purification and it also gives me the head space to focus on my goals for that day. It’s as much a mental exercise as a physical one and I love the challenge it poses. Can I go the distance? Can I eat into my minutes per mile? What do I want to get out of today? I decided to up the ante and have been training for a marathon in recent weeks. That was until I had to visit my Physiotherapist.

The Achilles heel on my right foot was sore and swollen, making walking any distance difficult and painful. She reassured me that I hadn’t ruptured the tendon but the diagnosis was that I had acute “Paratenonitis”. Never heard of it? Me neither. Paratenonitis I’ve since learned is an Achilles injury caused by overuse (and aging) and is common among middle and long distance runners. I had to acknowledge that I’m no longer a youth and I’m finding that injuries are becoming more troublesome and difficult to shake off. It just goes with the territory.

My Physio advised rest and recommended that I abandon my running for the time being to give it the chance to recover normally. Whilst the news wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear I had to take the advice and listen to reason which meant no marathon for me for the moment. The treatment recommended was RICE – not the grainy variety but “Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation”. The Ice and Compression were easy to manage but Rest & Elevation were hardly compatible with a busy daily schedule that included work responsibilities, being a husband and father to two small kids and training for a marathon. Something had to give and unfortunately the running was it. Primarily caused by a weakness in the leg muscles, I was given a program of exercises to develop the muscles, ensuring this injury wouldn’t reoccur.

In light of the diagnosis, I read a bit more about the aforementioned Achilles. In Greek mythology, he was a Greek hero of the Trojan War and a key protagonist in Homer’s Iliad. The story is told that when he was born, his mother sought to make him immortal and dipped him into the river Styx. However what she didn’t realise was that the heel by which she held him was not touched by the river’s waters and so that was the only part of his body that remained mortal. Achilles was subsequently felled in combat by an arrow that landed on his “Achilles heel”, the only vulnerable part of his body.

Now what you may well ask has a Greek God of War, a trip to the physio and my failed marathon ambitions got to do with Interview Questions?

Well I spent some time reflecting on the weakness in my body that hampered my progress and it occurred to me that this is a question that regularly features in interviews. “What are your greatest strengths? What are your weaknesses?” I’m pretty self-aware. I know where my strengths lie and I also know where my biggest challenges are. (Note: I didn’t say “weaknesses” which is something I encourage anyone attending any interview to bear in mind.) Not everyone is blessed with that level of awareness and sometimes it can be easy to repeat the same mantra back to the interviewer. “My weaknesses are…….” This is WRONG! Remember that they’re not weaknesses, they’re areas for improvement or development that you’ve identified and have already put in place or you are about to put in place steps to remedy. There is nothing that cannot be remedied with the correct measures but I believe it takes confidence and awareness to be able to articulate this correctly in an interview. Something that many candidates struggle with.

No one is perfect and it’s perfectly reasonable for a prospective employer to probe for your “weaknesses” in interview. They’re not trying to expose some embarrassing trait you might have, rather they’re testing you to see how you respond to that very question. The irony is that for some candidates, their biggest weakness is not performing well in interviews or more specifically, failing to address this very question. It’s not fatal and it can be remedied, but it does require some practice. Doing a “dry run” interview with your recruiter should be a normal part of your interview preparation and it doesn’t matter how experienced you are at interviews, everyone can improve their technique and their interview performance.

So the next time you’re in an interview and that question is asked of you. Pause, breathe and relax because no matter how bad you may feel about answering the question, the manner in which you respond to it is of far more importance than the answer itself.

If you find preparing for interviews stressful, or you have your own “achilles” question which you find difficult to answer, why not contact Campbell Rochford today and seek out our expertise in this area.

Campbell Rochford – Turning Good To Great

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