Can the Voice of Darth Vader Help Improve Your Interview?

September 18th, 2014 | Interviewing, Resume | No Comments »


James Earl Jones, the veteran actor behind the voices of Darth Vader and Mufasa of the “The Lion King,” didn’t always have the confident baritone he does today. A debilitating stutter kept him mute for most of his adolescent life, but he didn’t let it impede his goals. He openly addresses his speech impediment and can be seen as an example for anyone being asked “what is your greatest weakness?” in a job interview.

From Stutterer to Sith Lord

High school was the changing point for young James Earl Jones. Prior to that, he had believed, “talking was too difficult,” and kept a tight lip to limit any embarrassment.

An English teacher named Donald Crouch helped coax him from his shell. He used poetry to help Jones overcome his stutter, making the boy painstakingly recite Poe and Shakespeare aloud. Independently, Jones even amplified his vocabulary to help him avoid “m” and other pernicious sounds.

The effort paid off.

James Earl Jones went on to star in countless theatrical, small screen, and big screen productions. His distinct baritone can wash over audiences or unsettle them with the thunder and sizzle of a domineering electric storm.

Your own change doesn’t need to be as dramatic. But it definitely needs to show your own indomitable spirit.

Overcoming Your Greatest Weakness

We all have flaws. We all fall short of our own expectations. Managers aren’t looking to reaffirm that.

They want to see that your biggest weakness doesn’t immobilize you.

Treat your failings like an anti-theft wheel lock and you’ll be passed over for someone else. Treat them like a punctured tire that can be patched or changed, and you’ll rise to the top of their short list.

A strong response to questions about your biggest weakness can be broken down into three parts: realization, action, and results.

For James Earl Jones, the realization came when his stutter threatened to affect his growing love for poetry and public speaking. Then, the action came through oratory practice and the increase of stutter-friendly vocab words.

The results almost speak for themselves, but if James Earl Jones were to retell his story in a job interview, he’d be wise to highlight the million dollar blockbusters and acclaimed theatrical productions that have benefited from his ongoing effort to curb his stutter.

The story gives a clear explanation of the weakness itself, but shows how it doesn’t control him.

Your Response to “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?”

So, where do you begin when answering this question?

Start with a list. Write down all of your shortcomings, large and small, and identify those problems you are working to change. Then, narrow the list further by trying to articulate the actions you’ve already taken. If you can, include the following:

  • A series of steps to overcome your obstacle. It shows you can stay with progressive change.
  • A momentary setback, if possible. They show you aren’t easily deterred.

As a conclusion, you want to wrap up with a list of quantitative or qualitative results. Don’t be meek. Talk about your increased productivity, augmented problem solving, lauded projects, added company revenue, or whatever else you’ve achieved.

This closing moment ties up everything you’ve already said and makes your weakness seem powerless and small compared to your will. When you show you can overcome any problem facing you, you convey that you can overcome any problem facing them. And that is ultimately what will get you a job.

by James Walsh

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