Job Interviews: Answering “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”

Your job search is one of the most significant tasks you'll ever have. What job you end up with determines how you'll spend the majority of hours in your day, how much money you'll have, and how satisfied you are with your life. It's worth making the effort to end up where you'll be happy. Whether you're currently employed or not, here's how to put everything you've got into your job search-and it will bring you great results, whether you're in laboratory sales, medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, or any other health care sales arena:

You need to be able to summarize what you are bringing to the table. Make it short and sweet, but compelling enough to capture the attention of your listener/reader. Not only can you use it at networking events or casual meetings, you can use it in place of a traditional objective statement, and you can use it in your LinkedIn profile.

You must tailor your resume for what's relevant to the jobs you're applying for. You shouldn't have to rewrite the whole thing...just tweak it according to the job description. Organize it so that it's clear and easy-to-read-bullet points and white space are fantastic things. Keep it down to 1-2 pages, and fill it with keywords that will get it noticed by computerized tracking systems as well as sales numbers and other performance statistics that show you've been able to make (or save) money for the company.

You MUST utilize social media in your job search. There's just no other way around it. Facebook and Twitter are also useful, but LinkedIn is the most important place to be for business networking. A great profile includes your job history, a business professional picture, and a summary of who you are and what you do.

Don't just create the profile. Participate. One of the things that makes LinkedIn so powerful is the connections you can make and the recommendations you can acquire. You make connections by joining groups (like Sales Cafe), participating in discussions, and getting introductions to people you need to know. Your recommendations say that other people think you're great, too, and give another perspective on your talents. But remember to give good recommendations to others as well. LinkedIn is also an amazing resource for information on companies, hiring managers, and industry trends-and you can contact hiring managers directly for jobs.

Your online reputation is the sum total of what an employer will find out about you when they Google your name. It's the comments you make on LinkedIn, Facebook, and blog articles. It's your Tweets. If you're really serious, seek out opportunities to guest post on blogs or write articles for online newsletters. Make sure that every time you say something online, that it's professional and relevant.

Get out there and meet people. Attend networking events and tradeshows. Keep up with your contacts with the occasional email (it's more personalized than a Tweet) and give them something: a bit of information, a job lead, a great website, or an article you found. You can absolutely let them know what's going on with you, and ask them to keep an eye out for job leads you'd be interested in. Most people are happy to help.

I don't think it's possible to over-prepare for a job interview. Research the company. Know what their issues and challenges are in the marketplace. Make an effort to dress properly and project friendliness and enthusiasm with your body language. Have stories ready that demonstrate how you've handled difficult situations or met a challenge. Practice your answers to interview questions, and seriously consider role-playing interview questions with a coach. If pro athletes use coaches to gain a few extra seconds that make the difference between first and second place, you should, too.

There's no better way to show how you'll be able to hit the ground running and contribute to the company than by creating a

. A well-written plan is divided into 3 parts: the first 30 days, you'll focus on training and settling in (the more specific you can be, the better); the 60-day part expands your duties (say, by getting to know all your accounts and orienting yourself); and the last 30 days (the 90-day part) is your plan for bringing in new business (which you'll know because you've researched and analyzed the company's position in the marketplace). This plan is impressive because it shows the hiring manager your drive, commitment, enthusiasm, and knowledge of what it takes to be successful.

Here's another sure-fire method to impress your interviewer. Be interested in the job. Asking questions in the interview shows that you can think strategically and it also gets you quite a bit of information you can use while answering questions and in your follow-up. It turns the interview into a conversation and highlights your confidence and appeal.

A great follow up plan can cover everything from providing great references to writing a substantial, timely thank you note. The best references are past managers or other high-level people, but they should all be willing to speak to the interviewer. Make sure you prep them for the call by giving them the information they need to speak intelligently about you. Thank you notes should be sent as quickly as possible (within 24 hours, so send it by email) and should refer back to what you discussed in the interview if you have something great to say, or it should add something new to the discussion. It's also a great opportunity to revise your 30/60/90-day plan based on what you talked about, and you can attach it to your thank you note.

Many interview guides advise candidates to answer the common “What’s your greatest weakness?” question with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, “I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do,” or “I’m a perfectionist.”
Why? Because interviewers have heard these canned answers over and over again.
If you use one of them, it will likely backfire on you. Because the hiring manager will think:
You’re not being honest about your true weaknesses and are just regurgitating someone’s advice;
You feel that expecting others to work hard and striving for perfection (or whatever other disguised positive traits you use) are “weaknesses,” which makes you look ignorant, naïve and/or lazy;
You don’t know how to do an honest self-assessment;
Or you’re delusional and think you don’t have any real weaknesses!