Great “trick” interview question

I had a good interview yesterday and I wanted to share one of the questions posed by the HR director:

If you called up one of your references right now, what professional advice would they give you?

Away from the pressure and immediacy of the interview, I can now see the question as a derivative of “what are your weaknesses?” But in the moment I mostly thought of what positive things my references would say about me. I started with, “They would say keep up the good work, keep doing what I valued in you as a subordinate, I had my co-workers’ and managers’ backs” then I did mention a weakness. But then improved it with, “I know the good things you offer: show them off.”

It turned out OK because the other panelist in the interview (yes, it was one of those) said, “Most people would answer that by addressing weaknesses, but you turned it into emphasizing your strengths.”

As a side note, I gave each of the panelists a testimonials document as a leave-behind with my reference contacts, which is exactly what they were going to ask for next. I formatted the leave-behind in the style of the company’s web site.

I hope this helps!

— David Milkes