Q: I’m in search of a good job and am attending interviews. There are still some questions that I’m not able to give a proper answer to the interviewer, viz. "What’s your goal? What’s your weakness?" I would like to have your suggestions along with some useful tips.

These questions have been frequently asked and I am very happy to give you direction as it is so common to be asked about your weaknesses, strengths and goals.

The first tip I would give you is that, because it is highly likely that these questions will come up at an interview, it is absolutely essential that you have good, solid answers and that you rehearse them over and over again. When I am coaching clients, I advise them to rehearse answers to common questions at least 10 times, standing in front of a mirror or video camera. I believe that is the best way you can be adequately prepared to communicate your best answers to these questions.

Let me first deal with the question, "What are your weaknesses?" The important thing is to try to give a succinct answer and move on quickly to another question. I suggest that you begin your answer by saying, "I recognise that we all have weaknesses and strengths (by inference you are even inferring that the interviewer has weaknesses and strengths) so it is normal to have weaknesses." Then you could add, for example, "I think it is for others to asses my weaknesses. In my last annual appraisal with my boss he did not raise any area that was considered a weakness. That is not saying that I didn’t have any, but he felt there were none to raise with me that were sufficiently serious or that were affecting the performance of my work."

The best way to close the question quickly is to suggest as a weakness something that could be interpreted as a strength; for example, something like this: "My boss told me that my weakness was that I never gave up. Even when a project seemed dead, I would still try to find a way to make it happen. At first, I didn’t understand his concern, but after thinking about it I can see his point and I have gotten better about knowing when to quit."

Another approach could be to refer to a weakness that was identified some time ago, but that you have now dealt with. For example, "If you had asked me that question 12 months ago, I would have said that my weakness was that I did not understand the cultural challenges of working in the UAE. But I was sent on a training programme and have had several informal chats with colleagues of different nationalities, and now I feel very confident in the multicultural environment. In fact, only last week I was complimented on how well I relate to the different cultures in the office."

"What are your goals?" is another question you have asked about. Although it is a very common question, many people get the answer wrong. They provide an answer out of a textbook, which is so grand that either no one understands the answer, or no one believes it. What I believe the interviewer is looking for is an answer that will reassure him that your goal is to become a valued employee in the company, having a career path in the company and contributing to its success. I think it is also important to say that your goal is to have a balanced lifestyle, which means that you enjoy work but that you also want to have time to enjoy being with your family and time for personal development.

Final tip: remember that the only reason to answer a question at an interview is to enhance your chances of being the number one candidate. There is no other reason. Therefore, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Daniel Ough is a careers coach and founder of jobsearchhelp4u.com and Sandpiper Coaching. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and 
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