Standing out from the crowd at executive level

“What are your weaknesses?”

It’s a question we’ve all been asked in a job interview, so what is the perfect response? Many of us, (myself included) struggle to answer this well and you often find the further you progress in your career, the more unobtainable an answer becomes.

Within my last blog, The hurdles of the job interview, I talked about the importance of preparation through training and the obvious similes with that of an athlete – again, therein lies the answer.

If you’re an executive looking for your next or first leadership role, you’re faced with a highly competitive and often saturated job market.

The career triangle has come to a point; one job with many applicants all highly skilled and willing and able to sell their suitability to the vacancy. The answer that you give for each question has never been more important.

Success at the highest level requires more than industry experience and a well-polished interview technique.

Leadership and learning are synonymous – employers know this. Providing evidence of your continued personal development is, in most cases, essential in achieving an offer.

In today’s world, a strong leader must be able to identify their limitations and provide evidence of professional and personal development for individual growth and performance improvement.

Executive coaching is one of the fastest growing professions in the world. Spending on executive coaching in the US alone is estimated at $1 billion annually according to Harvard Business Review.

The Australian Institute of Management reported this year that 70% of its member companies hire coaches. This is a high growth industry for a reason – it brings success.

Working with a coach facilitates accountability with continued tangible results. A good coach will empower you to shape an accurate self-assessment of your performance and to implement self-directed behavioural change.

If you’ve had exposure to any form of professional coaching, this was likely instigated by a current or former employer.

Seizing the initiative and buying into the values yourself, off your own back, will only increase the performance of your personal and professional life – as well as heavily influencing a decision from a prospective employer.

On choosing a coach, check credentials and references for relevance. Mutual respect and similar values are important but the coach you choose shouldn’t be your new best friend or your therapist.

You’ll be the one held to task. Essentially you are a boxer or an athlete, looking for a trainer.

Do they have a plan that works for you and the strength of character to motivate and hold you accountable to deliver?

Once your training is underway and the weakness question comes up at your next job interview, you’ll explain your self-initiated coaching, self-assessment of key development areas along with an update on your current work in progress (WIP) action plan.

Now put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. If you received this as an answer, how impressed would you be?

This blog is based on a column by Rik Blanchard that first appeared in The Weekend Australian’s Weekend Professional section.

Rik Blanchard was a former Client Director with Vantage Performance – an award winning, national business transformation and turnaround firm with proven success in solving complex financial, operational and people performance issues.

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