According to career experts, here’s how to best answer the job interview question, “What are your weaknesses?”
Founder and Director, The Oculus Institute | Author, “Soulfire: Break Out of a Burnout Job and Craft a Career That Inspires You”
Before I go over the structure of a good answer to this question, there are two important principles:
Answer this question with a real and vulnerable answer
Don’t try to recast a supposed strength as a weakness (e.g. “sometimes I just get too dedicated to things”) or to dodge the question with a fluff answer that isn’t really a significant weakness (e.g. “I’m really bad at knowing what food to order for lunch meetings”). Both of these indicate a fragile ego, and any decent interviewer will see through it.
Many people are reluctant to follow principle #1 because they fear it will make them “look bad.” The way you avoid that while also being vulnerable is by demonstrating that you’re learning to improve and sharing specifically how you are working to improve this aspect of yourself. That is a powerful demonstration of long-term potential.
With those two principles out of the way, use the following structure:
- Introduction: “Historically, I have [had X problem].” – This is important phrasing. The use of present perfect tense (i.e. “have”) positions the flaw as something present but fading into the past.
- Story Background: “For example, there was one time when [provide the background information].”
- Story Point of Failure: Describe what you did wrong and the real-world consequence of your failing. Remember to be vulnerable. It should be clear that you really screwed up and that there were nontrivial effects.
- Lesson Learned: “As a result, I learned to recognize the importance of [the positive trait that is the opposite of your chosen weakness].”
- Path of Growth: “Because of that, I am [describe the specific actions you are taking to increase the quality that you are lacking].”
Utilizing these principles and this formula conveys self-awareness and sincerity, builds rapport, shows an ability to learn, and ultimately demonstrates significant long-term potential.
Karin Lykke Nielsen
Career Specialist, Jofibo
There can be little doubt that we all have our weaknesses. How we present them in a job interview situation can determine whether we get the job or not.
When the interviewer asks you this question, it’s important to be aware of why they’re asking it. Most of the time they want to uncover your level of self-awareness and honesty. They want to know how you evaluate yourself. But they also want to know how you plan on improving yourself.
You can be almost 100 percent sure that the interviewer will ask you this question in some form or another.
State your weakness as something that is non-essential to the role you’ll be filling
You need to prepare your answer and practice it out loud. Prepare at least three different weaknesses you can talk about. If you are able to show the interviewer how you’re planning to overcome a perceived weakness, you’ll actually come out strong.
There is a formula you can use when preparing your answers:
- State your weakness.
- Add additional context and, if possible a specific example of how the weakness has shown itself in your professional life.
- Mention ways you’re improving or planning to improve your weaknesses.
Examples of weaknesses:
Weakness 1: Disorganized
“I can be a bit disorganized which has sometimes meant I have been forced to do very long hours in order to finish my assignments on time. So recently I have started using a time management tool to help me make sure I reach all of my deadlines in time despite a large workload.“
Weakness 2: Self critical
“I have a tendency to be very self-critical which has often caused me to feel I could have done more on a given assignment. This has also meant that I have been overly critical of my team’s work effort as well. One way I’m working on this is by writing down each day three things I have accomplished and then I allow myself to celebrate this. My self-esteem has improved by this and so has my recognition of my team’s work.“
Weakness 3: Shy
“I’m shy by nature which means it’s difficult for me to speak up at meetings. I have dealt with this my entire life and recently I have made it my goal to speak up at least once during a meeting. I do this by always making sure I’m well prepared for all meetings I attend so that I know exactly what my contribution will be.“
So you see, even though the examples from above show the persons’ weaknesses, they also show, how they are overcoming, or planning to overcome, them.
Final tip: If you’re asked about both strengths and weaknesses in the same question (like “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses”) make sure to start with your weaknesses and end with your strengths. Always finish on a positive note when possible.
Ron Auerbach, MBA
Human Resource Expert | Author, “Think Like an Interviewer: Your Job Hunting Guide to Success”
This is a question that many job seekers absolutely dread! The main reason is that they don’t want to focus on the negative, but rather keep things on a positive note. So a lot of job seekers will dance around this question. Others will use the technique of taking a positive and turning it into a negative.
For example, “People have told me that I’m too punctual.” So this job seeker is taking punctuality, which is a good thing, and trying to make it sound as if it’s a negative by saying you have too much of it. But these two approaches or strategies are huge mistakes!
You see, the real purpose of this question is three-fold:
- One, are you able to do an honest self-evaluation of yourself?
- Two, can you identify and handle problems?
- And three, do you have enough integrity and honesty to admit that you’re not perfect?
FYI, the worst mistake a job seeker can make is saying they have no weaknesses!
The perception an interviewer will get from this response is that you are extremely cocky or arrogant. In other words, you have a real “high and mighty” opinion of yourself” and see yourself as perfect in every way.
Freely admit your weakness and show how you’re currently dealing with it
The simple fact is that all human beings have some imperfections. Failing to realize this will really hurt your chances of success. So the best way to handle this question is to freely admit something where you are weak or weaker.
Why is this the best approach? It’s because your weakness is a problem or challenge that needs to be dealt with and overcome. So by identifying a true weakness, you’re showing your ability to catch problems.
But it’s not enough to merely reveal your weaknesses. This is another mistake lots of job seekers will make! You also need to take it to the next step by either showing how you’re currently dealing with the weaknesses, have already resolved or improved them, or plan on handling them. In other words, you must explain your game plan to tackle those weaknesses.
For example, using myself as an example, I have always been a poor speller. So to help deal with this, I’ve slowed down to better focus on proofreading things. And had used vocabulary books to help learn and memorize the correct spellings of words. The end result of my efforts had paid off because my spelling had improved! To see how I freely admitted a true weakness.
Notice how I had explained how I went about dealing with the problem. And see how I had explained the results of my efforts. This is exactly what an interviewer will be looking for in your answer!
Associate Dean of Students, UCLA | Hiring Manager | Author, Building Talent Pools: A Professional Development Model for Succession Planning
My research has focused on the things that make a candidate stand out in the hiring process. Based on my experience, I offer the following five tips for how to answer the question “What Are Your Weaknesses?” in a job interview.
This question helps the interviewer understand if you are self-aware and open to feedback that includes constructive criticism. Don’t say, “I can’t think of one.” Nobody is perfect; we all have weaknesses. What matters is that we recognize our weaknesses and take action to address them.
Identify something you are actively working to improve
A weakness that you aren’t working to address is a problem. Respond by identifying your weakness, giving an example that demonstrates how you compensate for the weakness on the job, and explaining what you are doing to improve in that area.
Reframe the question
Rather than starting by saying, “My weakness is…,” consider “I am actively working to improve my….”. Then, focus more on the skills that help you compensate for the weakness, and your actions to grow rather than on the area of weakness.
Give an example that is not an essential function of the job you are seeking
While it is essential to identify a professional development goal you are working on, it should not give the employer reason to think you cannot be successful in this position. The area you describe should not be an essential function of the job.
Instead, address an area that you are working to develop that might help you in the future. For example, if this job does not involve budgeting, you might address your efforts to improve your financial literacy, or if this is not a supervisory position, you might address your lack of experience as a supervisor.
Do not say you are a perfectionist or a workaholic
You may think these labels are actually strengths, but you would be wrong. They are true weaknesses that an employer does not want. They need someone who can get the job done in the designated amount of time and understands when good enough actually is good enough.
Founder, Career Sidekick
Give an answer that’s skill-based, not personality-based
This is less likely to bring up a concern or “red flags” than if you named a personality trait. For example, don’t say your weakness is that you struggle to work with others, or that you have difficulty following directions, or that you have a short temper, etc.
Instead, you could say that one of your weaknesses is social media marketing, because although you’ve been working in the marketing function for two years, social media is an area you just took on in the past two months in your current role.
Or, if you’re in HR, you could say that employee benefits are an area you’re looking to improve upon because although you’ve been in HR for two years, you just began taking on this duty in your role.
Name skills that aren’t mission-critical for the job you’re interviewing for
Don’t say your weakness is customer service if you’re applying for a customer support role.
Make sure to talk about how you’re trying to improve upon that weakness
As the last step, whichever weakness you name, talk about what you’re doing to improve upon that weakness. That’s going to end your answer on a high note and leave a positive impression.
Co-founder, EmPact Consultancy | Career Coach | Expert Legal Risk Advisor
What this question is really about
Answering the ‘what is your weakness’ question, doesn’t have to be viewed as a trick question. If you take it out of the context of an interview, you’ll see why. For example, if you were talking to your child and they said they are not so good at this subject or at this sport what would you say?
The majority of us would try to help our children pinpoint why it is hard for them, encourage a way for them to work around it with constant practice. With time they would either improve or develop workarounds and simply put that’s the same kind of thinking required when preparing to answer a question about your weaknesses. It is really about problem-solving and self-awareness.
Try our simple S-S-S approach to prepare
When we advise our clients, we use our SSS approach, which is to State the weakness, quickly follow up by Showing how you identified the root issue and end with a Strength, in terms of how you improved or found a workaround. This simple approach allows you to provide a clear concise and strong answer, to a question many find tricky.
“My weakness is spelling, this is because I am dyslexic, however, I was determined for this to not hold me back and developed coping strategies.
As such, I have identified common words I find difficult to spell. I then compile a list of them and teach myself how to remember the correct spelling, through learning mechanisms that work for me. Of course, I use spell check but don’t rely on it as it doesn’t help me to learn.
Lastly, in internal correspondence I do include a reference in the footer indicating there may be typos, ‘please forgive typos as I am dyslexic.“
Now this answer demonstrates, how your weakness has turned to strength because essentially you have solved a problem (this is a real-life example). It also shows that you are resilient and don’t accept weaknesses rather you challenge yourself to overcome them. These are all core skills that any business would want to hear.
The winning element is that actually what you end up doing is shifting their focus from a weakness to your strengths, without ever mentioning the word ‘strength’.
It’s all in the delivery
Another piece of advice we like to give our clients is that part of answering this question successfully lies in your delivery. What you want to do is provide the answer skillfully by making sure it flows well.
Try to make it conversational, tell a story with examples, so it doesn’t sound rehearsed. So taking the example above, I might add things to make it a story by saying, I actually found out late about my dyslexia, so I had self-taught myself coping strategies before ever knowing I was dyslexic.
In addition, I would throw in a more objective point, and say as I am conscious of optics, I don’t want colleagues to assume I am lazy if there is a spelling error in my emails. So, I include a reference to my dyslexia in the footer of my email. Saying these things brings a conversational feel to the answer and introduces that you have great self-awareness and takes the interviewer through your journey.
Key things to remember:
- View this question as a way of showing how you problem solve.
- Show the benefit of your strengths from a business perspective.
- You should align the strengths you want to show to key values or key soft skills that the organization is interested in. In that way, you ensure that you also display their key values.
Career Coach | Founder, Spinner Coaching
It is hard to feel vulnerable. When you respond to the question “what is your greatest weakness?” during the interview, you feel unprotected and out of your comfort zone.
Step into that uncomfortable space way before the interview by talking about your areas of opportunity in your everyday life.
It will be difficult in the beginning but the more you practice the more your brain will thank you. Your response at the interview will flow easily, and the conversation will be less robotic.
Oh, and you are not alone. We all have flaws. The difference is how we feel about them. Feel confident and the interviewer will feel it as well.
Use the F-L-A-W method to best answer your weaknesses in a job interview.
Format (Story Format)
Use a story format in your response that provides background, the actions you are taking, the results, and what you learned from it. The background is a past work scenario, and the actions are what tools you used or perhaps it made sense to delegate it.
If the change resulted in positive results, share it! You can also include what you learned from it. It helps the interviewer to get to know you better.
“One of the common themes that came out of a recent feedback questionnaire that I initiated was my interrupting people when they speak. I tend to complete their sentences or I offer solutions before they complete their thoughts. One of the comments was that I was not honoring her voice. The strange thing to me was that I thought I was helping them.
So, I downloaded an app called [share the name]. It gives me a ding when I interrupt, and only I hear it. I also put a yellow stickie on my screen that says “SHUT UP”. And, I asked one of my direct reports to give me immediate feedback when it happens for self-awareness.
I noticed the dings happened less often in the past month, so the improvement feels great.“
Log areas of improvement
Keep a log and choose an area that does not conflict with the job role. If, for example, you are applying for a role that requires strong project management skills, you don’t want to choose a weakness that is afraid of leading teams.
Ask for feedback
Ask for feedback when you practice your response. You can also record your response and listen to it. Does it sound authentic? Is it a story that is engaging? Do the weaknesses interfere with your strengths?
Wind it down
Make it short and sweet. Don’t dive too deep. It is about the quality of your story. Think of it as a first date – focus on creating a connection, not the quantity of information.
CEO and Director, Pulse Recruitment
Remember to be honest and demonstrate how you rectified the weakness
This is a loaded question and outdated, in my opinion, but if you ever get it in an interview, remember to be honest. If you make up a weakness that you don’t have, you will sell yourself short and probably dig yourself a hole.
The best responses are honest and shine a light on your “skill” and not your “will”. In other words, they don’t relate to your motivation or attitude but more to a skill that you’ve had difficulty with and corrected, such as working too fast or time management issues.
The important thing is to recognize the weakness and demonstrate how you corrected it.
An example would be;
“I tended to work too fast on certain tasks because I was eager to complete them before their deadline. This would often leave my team behind and create a disconnect in the project. I rectified this by implementing my own personal “audits” after each step of the task so that I made sure the quality of work was always high and I kept within timelines without leaving my team behind.“
This example shows that you recognize the importance of teamwork and that you are innately a conscientious person, but your weakness could be overzealous. You were also strategic and self-aware enough to rectify this yourself and put in a process that helps you do this.
Career Strategist | Author, “Your Career Survival Guide: How to Get and Keep a Job in Times of Crisis”
Respond with an actual weakness and how are overcoming it
You never want to answer this question so honestly that you are admitting you are bad at something. Especially, if your weakness is a requirement to do the job! A
You don’t want to answer the question by disguising a strength as a weakness. Hiring managers can see right through when you answer this question by trying to pass off what some may see as positive personality traits as a weakness.
Acknowledge an actual weakness, but also share what you are doing to overcome it.
Answering this way will demonstrate your self-awareness, that you acknowledge and accept your weaknesses, and show you are committed and dedicated to improving upon them.
I can get distracted when I’m juggling several projects at once, but I’ve been using a Pomodoro Timer when working on critical projects and found it has really increased my ability to stay focused, as a result, I have become much more productive.
By sharing a genuine weakness and the way you are addressing it so it does not become a detriment to your ability to perform the role at a high level, will enable you to answer honestly and will be seen in a positive light for the role you are interviewing.
Career Advice Expert, LiveCareer
Show your human side
It’s a common mistake for many job applicants to think that they need to be perfect to get a job. They invest a lot of energy into hiding any flaws or failures from their careers. Such an approach is not only ineffective but also pointless.
We are all humans that make mistakes, regret things, and have weaknesses that affect how we work and interact with others. Trying to deny these things makes us less authentic and decreases our self-confidence.
Recruiters ask a "weakness" question to see how you approach unpleasant topics and perform under stress.
It’s not so important which weaknesses you list but rather how you do it. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare before your interview.
Think of two weaknesses you have and identify strategies you apply to overcome them. For example, if you struggle with setting priorities at work, show how you cope with that problem by implementing a particular time management tactic or using a tool such as Trello to prioritize your tasks.
The key lies in your attitude. You don’t want to pretend that you are flawless or show helpless behavior when dealing with problems. Embrace who you are and accept that mistakes are a part of your life. By doing so, you will be more authentic and confident during your interview and when building relationships with others.
Career Transition Practice Leader, Intoo US
Focus on the remediation
You always want to stay positive during an interview, even when answering a question about your weaknesses! The best way to respond is to spend 10% of the time to share the weakness and 90% of the answer on how you’ve overcome the issue.
That’s really what employers want to know, anyway – that you have an awareness of your weakness but have worked to surmount it.
That said, be sure not to highlight a weakness that may disqualify you from the interview process from the position you are pursuing. For example, when interviewing for a position that involves working on multiple projects simultaneously, stay away from calling out challenges with prioritizing deadlines.
Weaknesses are about perspective
Defining or classifying a trait as a weakness can be a matter of perspective. A strength to some may be a weakness to others. A strength becomes a weakness if it taken to the extreme and/or impedes your performance or the performance of others. So, how do you answer that interview question carefully so to not disqualify yourself from this particular role?
We know the importance of living a balanced life, one that takes our wellbeing into consideration as we prioritize a work/life balance. By knowing that and disregarding that balance, we are not prioritizing self-care.
When you lack self-care, it can and will eventually impede your performance and the overall success of meeting business objectives or goals. A big part of that is knowing when to say no. The inability to say no is, in turn, a weakness for many.
Frankly, the weaknesses question is tired and has been rephrased quite a bit. Some variations include:
- “We all have areas of development; what areas stand out to you where you would like to continue to build knowledge or skills?”
- Or, “If you were offered two skill-building courses or workshops, what skills would you like to develop and why?”
- Or, “Tell me what you are doing to improve a skill that you do not currently excel at?”
- And finally, “If I talked to your current manager, what are the top two development areas they would say you have?”
Co-Founder, Pocketbook Agency
Show that you are willing to take steps to improve it
When an interviewer asks, “What are your weaknesses,” you can be honest, yet you should also show that you are aware of this issue and that you are willing to take steps to improve it.
For instance, if you say that you tend to shy away from being assertive, you can add that you have since realized that this is something that needs improvement and that you have begun to actively work on taking more charge of situations when needed.
Incorporate a positive element to what could be seen as a weakness
For example, if you say that sometimes you are disorganized, you could also mention that this is due to the fact that you do not overthink things and that, as an urgent action-taker, you get things done sooner rather than later. This can be a positive thing as customers tend to appreciate quick responsiveness.
You could mention that sometimes you need to re-organize things that got overlooked later on, but at least you got the important things done first, and your boss and/or your customers see a high-level performer.
Try not to use general terms
Finally, try not to use very general terms such as “perfectionism” or “working too hard.” Rather, illuminate the details of the situation and give concrete examples of what you are trying to convey. Make your answers relatable.
Founder, The Rosenstein Group
Know your weaknesses are and show what you’re doing to improve
I have had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of people in my career as a recruiter and whenever I ask this question, what I am looking for is honesty, authenticity, and a clear motivation to improve.
I know there is a lot of advice out there that the best way to address this question is to pick a strength and make it look like a weakness, but recruiters can tell when you are being superfluous with your response.
Here is a simple and by far the most effective approach: Know what your weaknesses are, select one or two, and show what you have been doing to improve and become a better co-worker and employee.
For example, you might say:
“I struggle with giving constructive criticism even though I know this is an essential aspect of successfully managing a team and showing leadership.
However, I have read three books on the topics of communication and leading with empathy and I have enrolled in an executive leadership program to help me overcome self-perceived limits and to lead with confidence.
In my previous position, I began applying the concepts learned, and I became better and better at constructive communication, which went on to greatly improve team dynamics and work relationships.”
Keep in mind that employers would rather bring on someone who is adequately self-aware to know their limitations and coachable enough to improve and grow in their career.
Executive Recruiter | CEO, Artemis Consultants
Focus on personal weaknesses
Focus on personal items that are not necessarily reflective of professional liabilities, yet they are weaknesses. And if shared and presented properly, they can show vulnerability and be an endearing personality.
“I’m hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic and tend to demonstrate negative “self-talk”. That’s not healthy so I’m learning how not to be so hard on myself. I accomplish this by listening to podcasts, reading, and books that help me address this weakness.“
“I’m not good about scheduling “me time”. Like many these days, my day is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get. As a psych major, I know it’s generally a good idea to make sure each of us gets some time to be calm and “at the moment”. I don’t do this on a consistent basis nor as often as I’d like. So, I’m scheduling very specific times that I’m “unavailable” and take a walk around the block (no headphones) or do some simple yoga exercises in a quiet place.“
HR Manager and Business Partner, Zety
The last thing you ever want to do at an interview is to talk about things you are bad at. The thing is, you can’t really say you’re good at everything (cause that sounds like a lie or bragging – nobody’s perfect).
Talk about your weaknesses the way that it still makes you look good
Keep in mind that the “what are your weaknesses” question is designed to show how you handle the question and not what the actual answer is. Be honest, describe your real weakness and show how you’re working on improving it, like:
I struggle with planning out my work. I often underestimate the time it will take to do smaller tasks, and so I don’t delegate enough time to more important jobs. Then I have to hurry to get things done. To address the issue, I’ve started taking online time management courses.
Editor In Chief, ResumeLab
Do not give a weakness that is critical to the job
Before your interview, make a list of hard and soft skills you’re weak at that aren’t essential to do your tasks.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a firefighter, it’s probably best if you not admit you’re afraid of heights. If you’re applying for a position as a coder, your weakness could be not learning enough foreign languages: “Sad to say, but I only know French, Swahili, and Mandarin…sigh. (Only if that’s true of course!)”
For soft skills, a program coordinator could pick spontaneity as their kryptonite: “You see, I’m so organized, I’ve got planning OCD. It’s sometimes difficult for me to switch gears suddenly!”
Or, the accountants among us can pick creativity as the weakness: “As an accountant who lives and breathes numbers, I’m a bit creative-challenged.”
Human Resources and Recruiting Expert, Get Hired Secrets
Never state just the negative
Ponder for a moment and then state a negative (preferably a neutral one) that you can turn into a positive that would not compromise or negatively impact your performance.
Mention professional traits that you deem as a weakness rather than concentrating on negative personal qualities. Likewise, it would be best to mention that you are doing something to improve yourself professionally in order to correct your weakness.
“My biggest weakness is that I am impatient with my work. When I am assigned a project I like to get started immediately even if all the data or supporting documents are not ready. Now, when this happens I find it helpful to carve out time in my calendar and start scheduling specific deadlines for the project. This enables me to take a deep breath and ensures the project will be completed on time.“
Frederick L. Shelton
There are three ways to handle this. Career coaches often tell a candidate to use the “learned from the past” tactic. An example would be to say something like “Well, my greatest weakness used to be managing new people but I took some courses and now I’m much better at it.” The thought is that this will display an ability to adapt, grow and learn.
That tactic is okay but I train my interviewers to reply with a legitimate weakness so they can get something more genuine.
Be honest about something you don’t enjoy
For example, if someone asked me that question, one way I would reply could be with: “I absolutely hate firing people. I never feel good about it, ever. That doesn’t mean I don’t do it when it’s necessary but it’s something I don’t even want to be good at.”
Demonstrate that your weakness won’t hinder job productivity
Another way to address that question is to be honest and demonstrate that your weakness won’t stop you from being great at the job.
“One of my weaknesses is organization and details. While I know that’s something that CEOs have to have, it’s not a strength. Fortunately, I have enough self-discipline and focus to compensate for a natural weakness.
So I delegate and use tech and other tools to make sure we accomplish our objectives. My track record and revenue generation should show clearly that enough focus and self-discipline can overcome almost any obstacle.”
Being honest about not loving everything in a job, and/or about being self-aware when it comes to your weaknesses, projects honesty and authenticity.
Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.
Managing Partner, Sibley Dolman Gipe
The last answer an applicant should give is, “I’m a perfectionist”
It sounds self-serving and misleading. If an applicant is, in fact, a perfectionist, it’s better to say something along the lines of, “I can hyper-focus on the details and lose sight of the big picture.” Or, “I can struggle with deadlines because I’m so determined to get the job done right.”
This gives me insight into how I might be able to leverage that applicant’s abilities if I give them the job.
Reveal a growth mindset
Answering a question about your weaknesses is actually a great opportunity to reveal a growth mindset. I love when an applicant honestly tells me what they’re working on, whether it’s time management, people skills, or attention to detail.
Bonus points if they tell me about a book they’re reading on the subject. This lets me know that if I hire the person, I’m investing in who they are becoming and that the best is yet to come.
Attach a weakness to a strength
For example, if an applicant tells me they struggle to delegate, they might also tell me that they take great ownership and pride in the work they produce. This lets me know I can count on them to see a project through to the end.
Co-Owner and Program Director, LA Tutors
Point out a small flaw and a method to improve on it
While this exact question may not show up in this form any longer, employers will ask some variation of this question to assess how self-aware a candidate may be.
The most commonly provided answer to this question is to answer with a strength, rephrased as a weakness (e.g. “My biggest weakness is that I am a work-a-holic and always do more than I’m supposed to”). These answers are actually overused and trust me when I tell you that employers have heard them all.
I interviewed approximately 50 candidates a year and in my experience, an authentic answer carries more weight.
Now, this doesn’t mean you point out your biggest flaw, but it’s good to know that an applicant is self-aware enough to point out a small flaw. Something like “I sometimes have trouble meeting deadlines with large-scale projects.”
The important part comes next. Don’t just stop there. You have to also provide a solution to your weakness. In the example I provided, you might say “So, in order to make sure I don’t fall behind, I break down my projects into smaller bite-sized chunks and put them into my work calendar.”
Being honest about a small flaw and also providing a method of combating said weakness builds trust and also tells your potential employer that you have a mature work ethic and are able to improve yourself.
Co-Founder, Authority Hacker
As a company owner, I asked this question more times than I can remember!
There is a reason this is one of the most common questions on a job interview. It shows a lot about your personality regardless of your answer. It is important to understand that this is not a bragging-time type of question. Interviewers want to see how you perceive yourself and what type of person you aspire to be.
Showing a bit of humility and restraint, while keeping it in balance with the right amount of self-confidence is the right way to go.
Show that you are open to learning and improving no matter what skill level you are at. Portraying some of your weaknesses as strengths is a good way to answer. Openness to admit problems, not being afraid to make mistakes, and such answers, even though they are common, work very well in the interviews.
And above all, be honest and genuine! Don’t try to learn all the best answers. Chances are – people interviewing you have heard them gazillion times already. They will appreciate original personality much more!
As a CEO of an HR tech startup, I have interviewed many of my team members and asked this question. I look for answers that show a candidate’s self-awareness of their weakness. After that, I want to know what steps they take in combating it.
For example, if a team member is too much of a people pleaser, how do they set boundaries to avoid burnout? Or if they prefer to work alone, how do they make an effort to communicate and collaborate with others? I like getting answers that reference past scenarios and what they’ve done in the past to work around their weakness.
The best answer to a question about your weaknesses shows that you’ve thought about how to work around them.
Don’t give trite answers like being a perfectionist and leave it at that. If you actually are one, I would prefer for you to elaborate on how that affects your work and what you do about it.
For example, are you too hard on yourself and your co-workers? Do you get caught up in details and continue working past deadlines? Give specifics and share your strategy for combating it.
You should always be honest when responding to the question about your weaknesses.
There is no need to make the truth nicer than it is because managers usually seek people who are aware of their flaws and willing to work on them.
Even if your weakness is something that could jeopardize your business, don’t try to hide it. Your goal is to show that you’re self-conscious and realistic. That being said, this question isn’t designed for you to be very critical and discredit yourself.
Be selective and try to identify a couple of the most important weaknesses that are relevant for the job you’re applying to. It may sound too simple, but your ultimate goal is to carefully choose the information you will share with the hiring manager. The point isn’t to lie but to be very honest and direct.
Don’t waste a lot of time on this question, but make sure you’re concise and very on-point. If the hiring manager is interested in more details, they will ask you additional questions.
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Best Ever Guide to Life | Professional Life Coach
The trickiest part of most job interviews is the dreaded question: “What are your weaknesses?”. It seems more like a trap. Many have survived this question by saying something like: “I’m too passionate about my work” or “My standards are too high.”.
Resorting to these all too generic answers not only sounds insincere, but it is also a missed chance on showcasing self-awareness, honesty, and character during your interview. It shows that you are keen on improving yourself. However, avoid disclosing weaknesses that’ll give the interviewer the impression that you can’t fulfill the role.
Take time to self-introspect
This is probably the best preparation you can do before the interview. Look back at your career journey, and try to recount specific incidences which you could use as an example.
By doing some self-reflection, you would not be settling for just a cookie-cutter answer. You’ll be able to discover sincere and honest insights which you can use not just for a job interview, but also for your personal development.
Present your weakness in such a way that it can highlight another strength
For example, when you say: “I find it challenging to work with a team”, you can segue to your self-sufficiency and initiative right after.
Take this chance to paint the whole picture of what you are as someone to work with, describing your specific set of talents and skills. For example, if you are applying as a graphic designer, you could say:
- “I am not good with numbers and calculations, because my core strength is really being on the creative side.”
On the other hand, if you’re applying for an accountant, you could say:
- “I find writing narratives a little bit challenging. It’s probably because I’m most comfortable in dealing with numbers.”
Let them see that you are eager to improve. Show that you know your weaknesses should not be a dead-end. Always end your answer by saying:
- “That is something I’d like to work on.”
Luke Smith, MBA
Founder, We Buy Houses In Owensboro
Crafting an answer to inform a potential employer of your weakness is very important in a job interview. The person conducting the interview will only spend a few short minutes (30 at most) with you to understand who you are and why you’re qualified for the job.
They don’t know your personality or your character so everything you give them they will use to create an image of you. It’s important to showcase yourself and also be honest during the interview.
You should respond truthfully, with someone that isn't so horrible that it hurts your opportunity.
Perhaps, you’re impatient and you wear your emotions on your sleeve. Those are both areas of opportunity, that you can share without ruining the meeting. It’s also important to share the fact that you’re humble enough to admit your faults and willing to learn, take direction, and grow.
Employers love employees that are honest, hardworking, and coachable. No one likes interviewing a “know-it-all.” If they truly know it all, then they should go out and create their own business rather than working for one.
It’s best to be sincere, genuine, and still paint the best image of yourself while also being slightly vulnerable to allow the other party to see you as a human, rather than just a number that they have to get through.
People don’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.
If you can create a positive atmosphere, tell your story while also playing up your strong sides, and show some vulnerability, then you’ll easily win over your audience.
Anne Corley Baum
Lehigh Valley Market President for Capital BlueCross | Founder, Vision Accomplished
When asked to share your weaknesses during the interview process, it’s always best to answer this question in a positive light.
- Saying, ‘I am a very hard worker and I have to remember to keep balance in my life and schedule’ demonstrates that you prioritize your job, but understand that health/balance is important, too.
- For the more advanced interviewee with a real answer ready, you can also take the answer in a humorous direction by saying you have a weakness for pizza or chocolate.
- On a more professional level, saying that you like to say yes to as many projects as possible, and sometimes that leads to a full plate to manage. Be sure to add that you always figure out how to make it happen.
- Sharing that you are focused on results and that sometimes leads you to focus too much on work and you need to remember, that your team has a life to balance. This demonstrates that you care about getting the job done and that you realize that you need to understand the life balance challenges of your team.
- Another fun angle for the more advanced interviewee is saying you have a weakness for leadership books or books/blog/podcasts related to the industry in which you are interviewing and that it’s hard for you to pass them up. This shows a thirst for knowledge and makes the weakness a strength.
- Another angle on the team is, “I am always available when my team needs me, day or night, and I have to remember to respect their time outside of office hours.” This demonstrates your leadership and commitment while respecting the time of your team members.
Founder and CEO, Doc Pro
This is a common question asked by me to the candidates. The best answer tends to be from an area that you will need improvement and show that you are doing something to improve in that area. Use something minor that can help with your job and you can pick up quickly.
Avoid discussing an outright weakness that will affect your ability to do the job. Always end on a positive note.
“Everyone has areas of improvement. Mine is catching up with the latest technology innovation. Today, technology is changing so fast that by the time I learn a programming language, there are newer better versions coming out. I am constantly seeking to update myself and expanding on my capabilities by regularly attending seminars on new technologies.“
HR Manager, Survey Sensum
Employers ask you a series of questions to learn more about your someone’s personality, experience, and professional background. But addressing your weaknesses during an interview can be challenging to answer.
Employers mainly focus on weaknesses during an interview to understand whether candidates are having the ambition to learn from weaknesses or not.
Here are some tips which can help every candidate to best answer regarding their weaknesses:
- Choose a weakness that will not prevent you from succeeding in the role
You can turn your weakness into an opportunity to become a more skilled employee or a more well-rounded individual. This can help you emphasize that you are the type of person who accepts challenges.
- Be honest and choose a real weakness.
Interviewers hate obviously self-serving answers. Don’t talk about being a workaholic or a perfectionist. It’s been done before, and it won’t help your chances. Take stock of your weaknesses and choose the one you can talk about candidly.
- Provide an example of how you’ve worked to improve your area of weakness or learn a new skill to combat the issue.
Employees who can accurately perform self-assessment are more valuable to a company. Your supervisor won’t need to be over your shoulder at all times, because you already know what you need to be improving on.
- Demonstrate self-awareness and an ability to look to others to provide you with the resources necessary for growth.
Try to incorporate how your self-awareness about your weaknesses has led you to make continuous improvements throughout your career. You’ll be a much more attractive candidate if you can express your desire to always be better.
Don’t be arrogant, but alternatively, don’t underestimate yourself or show a lack of confidence when you answer.
Founder and Hiring Manager, A&E
Hiring managers can get pretty tired when interviewing dozens of applicants, so it is always great to introduce some humor, humility, and sincerity.
Here are some of my favorite answers:
“I am risk averse.”
This can be an appropriate answer for technical jobs or software developers.. You can elaborate and say, “In certain instances, it can be bad. However, this trait also led me to alarm my team when I saw potential software bug problems, and it also saved my employer tons of money on bad code.”
“I don’t like in algebra and geometry.”
This is an appropriate and funny answer for those applicants whose job description does not include much or any mathematics. You can elaborate and say, “I learned to recognize my strengths early on, and mathematics wasn’t one of them. I decided on a career path that involves design and graphics. Many of my friends seemed determined to excel in areas where they lacked talent. I simply decided to pursue my strengths. So, here we are (laughs).”
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Prepare for This Question Before the Interview?
It’s a good idea to prepare for this question before the interview, so you feel confident and prepared. Here are a few strategies you can try:
Practice with a friend: Have a friend or family member ask you this question and practice your answer. Getting feedback and practicing can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
Reflect on your weaknesses: Take some time to think about your work, professional skills, and areas where you could improve. Write down a few possible weaknesses and think of specific examples you could use to illustrate them.
Research the company and the job: Look at the job description and research the company to get a sense of what they’re looking for in a candidate. This way, you can pick a weakness that is relevant to the job and show that you’ve done your homework.
What if I Can’t Think of a Weakness to Talk About?
If you can’t think of a weakness to talk about, it can be helpful to think about yourself a little before the interview. Here are a few strategies you can try:
Think about the feedback you’ve received: Did you receive feedback from a supervisor or co-worker about an area you could improve? This could be a good starting point to identify a weakness.
Consider areas where you feel less confident: Is there a particular task or skill you struggle with or don’t feel confident in? That could be a weakness you should talk about.
Look at the job description: Are there skills or qualifications listed in the job description that you don’t have? This could be an opportunity to discuss a weakness while showing that you know the job requirements.
How Do I Avoid Sounding Insincere When I Talk About My Weaknesses?
It’s important to strike the right balance between being honest and indicating that you’re actively working to improve your weaknesses.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid coming across as insincere:
Be specific: Avoid vague or general answers that say nothing about your actual weaknesses. Instead, be specific and give examples of where your weakness has impacted your work.
Don’t make excuses: While it’s okay to provide context or explain why you’re struggling with a particular skill, you shouldn’t make excuses or blame others for your weaknesses. Take responsibility and show that you’re making an effort to improve.
Show confidence: It’s okay to be vulnerable and admit weakness, but you should also show confidence in your ability to improve. Talk about specific steps you’ve taken to address the weakness and your plan to keep working on it.
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