Austrian entrepreneur Hermann Hauser, in an interview in yesterday's FT, was asked about his three worst features. His answer: "I am impatient, I don't suffer fools gladly, and I am too demanding."
I've seen impatience cited as a weakness in several interviews with big-ego execs. What a cop-out. Though it's not as bad as when someone's self-critical moment comes via a line like, "I work too hard on the weekends."
When attemping to rely on a person's self-knowledge — a treacherous affair — stick to asking about the person's top strengths.
If, however, you're keen on asking a question that prompts a darker reflection, don't ask explicitly about weaknesses. Ask instead, "What keeps you up at 2 AM?"
You won't get an honest answer there, either, but, in my experience, you get a bit closer.