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  • How to Handle the Weakness Question

    July 7th, 2011, 1:45 pm

    I am meeting with several students interested in interview preparation. They are applying for jobs, preparing for internships, or hoping for a leadership role in a student organization.  There is one interview question that is universally dreaded and gives students pause: “What’s your biggest weakness?”

    Students handle this question successfully when they are able to show that they are both self-aware and proactive – they understand themselves enough to identify a weakness, and they also take initiative to improve themselves.

    So what does a good answer to this question look like?

    One way to structure your answer is to use a 20-80 rule.  No, I’m not talking about the Pareto principle.

    Spend 20% of your answer describing a legitimate and honest weakness.  “I work too hard” won’t cut it!  But don’t stop there, leaving the employer to wonder how this will negatively impact your work.  Spend the majority of your answer, or 80%, giving the interviewer concrete examples of your efforts to overcome or compensate.  An example might be as follows:

    “I have often struggled in environments where I don’t have a lot of structure – I lose focus or scramble to meet deadlines because they sneak up on me.”

    That’s your 20. It’s an honest answer, but not a complete one.  Read on:

    “So, if you were to look in my briefcase, you would find a remarkably color-coded and earmarked DayPlanner. I have found that if I can structure my time on paper, my life will follow.

    Additionally, I have learned to ask for structure if I need it. When completing a major research paper last semester, I scheduled two extra meetings with my professor to discuss drafts. I made measured progress throughout the semester and submitted an excellent paper for which I received an ‘A.’

    I have learned to structure my own time, and am confident that this will help me as an intern with your organization, given that I will be completing self-driven and independent projects for your PR department.”A great answer! If you can acknowledge a weakness, show how you are working on it, and even connect your learned skills to the job for which you are interviewing, you’ll be in good shape.

    For additional interviewing resources and practice,

    • – Read general interviewing tips and view practice questions on our Web site
    • – Use our Optimal Resume portal to create customized practice interviews online
    • – Stop by to schedule a mock interview with one of our career counselors.  You’ll practice questions geared for your industry and work with your counselor to improve your approach to interviewing.

    Dressing for Success

    April 6th, 2011, 4:32 pm

    This is an excerpt from our Senior Handbook, a guide we have written to help seniors prepare for life after graduation. These tips are applicable to all students who are in the midst of the interviewing process for jobs or internships. The Senior Handbook is now available for download on our Web site.

    Interview Dress

    The most basic rule of thumb to use when deciding what to wear for an interview is this: the simpler, the better. Think vanilla. Contrary to what some students may think, this is not an early sign of submission to The Man. Loud, revealing, or unusual clothing is a distraction during an interview. It will serve you well if your statements and your personality are the most memorable thing about you (as opposed to your flashy tie or those heels that you usually wear to Rhino). Even if your preferred industry is highly creative or known to be informal, be careful. It’s always better to convey your serious interest in the position by overdressing. So what does that look like?

    Here are some general tips:

    • Research the preferred dress at the office you will be visiting. Many workplaces prefer a professional dark business suit (black, dark blue, grey), but some offices may prefer less traditional dress. When in doubt, ask someone at the company or in the industry for suggestions.
    • Skip the aftershave, cologne, or perfume; because some people are allergic to various scents, the safest route is to refrain from using them altogether.
    • Bring a briefcase or portfolio for your extra résumés, note paper, breath mints, etc.


    • Wear a conservative tie.
    • Arrive clean shaven.
    • Wear polished shoes that match or complement your suit. Don’t be afraid to ask for an opinion from a roommate.
    • Limit jewelry to a watch, ring, and cufflinks.


    • Wear conservative jewelry (i.e., small earrings, one ring instead of three, small necklace).
    • Wear stockings or pantyhose with a skirt.
    • Keep your hair away from your face, if possible.
    • Wear conservative makeup and nail polish. Again, we’re not trying to cramp your style – we just want your personality to shine thanks to your words, not thanks to the new nail color from OPI.
    • Don’t wear a low-cut blouse. Blouses need to be buttoned to the top or second-to-top button.
    • Don’t wear open-toe shoes or shoes with heels higher than two inches. It’s worth it to invest in a simple pair of black or brown flats or low heels. If you need to buy them for the interview, chances are you’ll need to buy them for the job a few weeks later anyway.

    Be sure to try on your outfit well in advance of your interview to make sure everything fits and looks professional.

    You might be thinking, “In that case, I have nothing to wear!” Borrow a roommate’s things if you need to. Additionally, take advantage of local thrift stores or secondhand shops to help build your professional wardrobe. Because there are so many affluent neighborhoods in close proximity to Georgetown, it’s often easy to find some nicely appointed items for a fraction of what you’d pay shopping on M Street. Below are some examples; call or visit the Web site to get a sense of price points and current offerings.

    Frugalista (thrift shop for men and women)
    3069 Mt. Pleasant
    Washington, DC
    Mon – Sat: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
    Sun: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

    Mustard Seed (secondhand shop for women)
    7349 Wisconsin Avenue
    Bethesda, MD 20814

    Current Boutique (secondhand shop for women)
    Arlington location:
    2529 Wilson Boulevard
    Arlington, VA 22201
    Alexandria location:
    1009 King Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314

    Mint Condition (secondhand shop for women)
    114 S. Royal Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314