Ferreting out weaknesses
When asking an open question about someone’s weaknesses, first mention that everyone has areas they need to strengthen or develop. Then ask for the candidate’s development needs.
Your antennae should be fully operational, scanning for inconsistency, avoidance, formula answers or discomfort with these questions.
Improvement needs, experience/skill deficits
Other Options, or If Getting Unsatisfactory Responses to the Open Question
Do-Differently Questions (Hypothetical Questioning):
Is there anything in the past [month / year] you would do or decide differently if you could do it over with hindsight?
Others-Said Questions (Perspective Questioning):
What would your [boss / subordinates / peer / significant other…] say would be your development needs?
Handle-When Questions (Situational Interviewing):
How did you handle a decision in the past [month / year] when you felt afterwards you learned an important lesson?
Restate (Persistent Questioning):
I think getting at the ways people need to improve is one of the toughest parts of interviewing. So please understand if I ask you to think more about where you believe you could use improvement.
In interviews, people often state the flip side of a positive as their negatives. But I think, since we all could use improvement, that it’s most important if someone has a genuine understanding of their development needs. That tells me they’ll probably handle them. So let me ask again, are there any other things you could use working on?