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  • Common job interview tips include preparing ahead for classic questions.
  • However, Coca-Cola exec Stacey Valy Panayiotou asks the classic question "What's your biggest weakness?" in an unusual form.
  • Answering it effectively requires honesty — and preparation.


"What's your biggest weakness?" is a classic job-interview question.

But Stacey Valy Panayiotou, the senior vice president of global talent and development at Coca-Cola, asks something a little different:

"How could you be misunderstood?"

Panayiotou spoke to Steven Greenberg at CBS about the 130-year-old company's hunt for new talent, and told him her two favourite interview questions - the above, and "How can people get the wrong impression of you, and what do you do about that perception?"    

"That sounds like a much better variation on the common 'what's your biggest weakness?' question," Greenberg pointed out.

Panayiotou agreed: "Yes, it helps candidates address obstacles they face and how they manage to get around them. At Coke we want well-rounded people, people who know how to learn through failure."

"How could you be misunderstood?" may sound unfamiliar, but its similarity to "What's your biggest weakness?" could be an advantage — applicants can prepare ahead for it.

The best way to answer this type of question is with honesty, writes Monica Torres for Ladders. There's nothing worse than dodging the question with a manufactured and clearly dishonest "weakness" like "I just work too hard." 

"The best answers should be tailored to the company you're interviewing for and should include a weakness you actually possess," Torres writes. "In other words, your answer needs to be authentic and honest, so that the recruiter can see you as a job candidate and as a real person."

Torres continued: "When you're being asked what's your biggest weakness, what you're really being asked is what are your biggest gaps in professional development, and how are you addressing these gaps."

Panayiotou told Greenberg that, overall, the interview questions asked at Coca-Cola aren't designed to stump the interviewee but to better highlight relevant experiences and skills in the interviewee's past that could help them in the role. "If you have a job description, you can easily anticipate the questions you might be asked," she said.

For the record, Panayiotou is not only looking for weaknesses. "I love to ask questions that help to bring a candidate's résumé to life, and I encourage them to describe why the job they seek is interesting to them," she told Greenberg.

And her best interview advice? Practice.

"We aren't looking for memorised responses," she said, "but practising will help you focus on the key points and stories you want to share so you can deliver them clearly and concisely on the big day."

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