The “tell us about your strengths and weaknesses” interview question isn’t the worst, but it’s close. Humble brags and confessions of vulnerability aside, there’s a better way. Christopher Lochhead explains what we really want to know or say (in the context of hiring a Chief Marketing Officer): are you a fighter or a farmer?
A fighter comes in during wartime to do a job. It can be a war against the competition, especially into a new market or category, a battle to evolve internally, or both. Fighters are good at big decisions and decisive actions. Fighters are willing to try something new to find a way to win. Great fighters are agents of change.
A farmer comes in during peacetime to do a job. Peacetime is when market share has already been captured and profits are a focus. Farmers are all about executing and improving processes. By understanding the internal and external variables, they know how to plant and grow with the seasons to drive output. Great farmers can make an ecosystem sing.
Fighters don’t do well in peacetimes and farmers don’t do well in war times. When we frame what we’re good and bad at in the fighter/farmer sense, it reminds us how the environment and context matter as much as our personal skill set.
Knowing our strengths and weaknesses is really knowing the situations where we work better, best, and miserably. The best work gets done when the right people are in the right places at the right time. If a war is on the horizon, gather the fighters. If peace is here, gather the farmers.