How to answer: ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ in a job interview

‘What is your greatest weakness?’ Most people consider this question pointless yet, it is a common question for interviews. In this question also lies the power to determine whether a candidate will be a liability or an asset to the company.

Now, since this is a nearly inevitable question, what is the best way to talk about your weakness at a job interview? You have to be careful when answering this question. In as much as we don’t want you painting a picture of an arrogant or dishonest fellow, we also don’t want you making them doubt your ability to do the job.

In this article, we will show you first, what an interviewer is looking out for when they ask you about your weakness and how to answer the question, “what is your greatest weakness?”

Learn more about discussing your strengths & weaknesses and how to answer these questions!

‘What is your greatest weakness? – Why do interviewers ask this question?

Sometimes interviewers ask this question not only because they want to hear your answer but because they want to see how you will answer it. Aside from assessing your character and personality, they want to know how you will react to such an unexpected question. They are looking out for three major things:

  • Self-consciousness: they will want to know that you are conscious of the weakness but the weakness doesn’t stop you from carrying out your job.
  • Honesty: your response to this question would reflect how truthful you are to yourself and to people. They believe the best candidate won’t see the need to lie about their weakness.
  • Self-improvement: even with your weaknesses, there is still room for improvement. You should include the steps you have taken to improve on yourself and be a better person.

Learn more about honesty & integrity questions and how to answer them!

Other ways of asking this question

Interview questions about strengths and weaknesses can be asked in a varierty of forms. These questions fall into the category of so-called ‘tough interview questions‘. Below there’s a list of different ways you can be asked the same question to assess your weaknesses.

  • Is there any area in your skillset you feel you should work on?
  • Have you encountered any difficulties or issues while working in your current job?
  • If you are given an opportunity to change one thing about yourself, what will that be?
  • What are your weakest areas or skills?
  • Which of your job roles or duties do you struggle most with?
  • Which of your job tasks or responsibilities do you seem to find more challenging?
  • What do your colleagues and employer see as your biggest weakness?

Learn more about tough interview questions and how to answer them!

Ways to answer the question: what is your greatest weakness?

We all have weaknesses except we do not want to admit it. In cases of the interview, however, it is better we begin with an honest answer to this question. So what do you do?

Select some non- essential qualities

One way you can answer this question is by analyzing the major skills and the core strengths required for the target job. Surely, there will be a skill amongst them that you do not possess and which is not essential for the job role.

Here is a list of some examples of weaknesses you could mention:

  • Lack of focused or too focused
  • Not good at taking a risk
  • Not good at public speaking
  • Disorganized
  • Limited experience
  • Sensitive
  • Pays much attention to detail or does not pay attention to detail

Talk about the skills you have improved or that you are working on

Your interviewer will be impressed to find out that you are committed to self-improvement and have been working on yourself. You should discuss those skills you have successfully worked on or the ones you are currently working on.

When using this approach, you should start by mentioning the weakness and talk of what this weakness cost you or the negative effects this weakness had on you or your job. Then discuss the steps you have taken or that you are currently taken to improve and the outcome of those steps. It would sound better to know that you have already started working on them than to say you will still work on them.

Describe your weakness in a concise manner

Be brief when answering this question. You don’t necessarily need to launch into long details about your weaknesses. You should avoid talking about your weakness with much negativity. Do not be defensive of them as well.

Common mistakes candidates make when answering this question

  • Denial

No one is perfect. Everyone does have flaws and areas of weaknesses. Denying this fact is you being dishonest and not being true to yourself. It also means you are neither self- aware nor self- critical.

Telling your interviewer you have no weaknesses will jeopardize your chances of working in that organization. You should rather show that you are aware of this weakness and you have been able to manage it in such a way that it does not interfere with the discharge of your duty.

  • Admitting to a weakness that is essential for the job

Some candidates make the mistake of admitting to mistakes that are necessary for the success of the job. it is not reasonable to state that you are grumpy and hot-tempered when a job offer clearly states that its ideal job candidate should have a positive attitude, be friendly, and have strong interpersonal skills.

  • Giving a response that is out of the point

In as much as it is wise to share a non-essential skill you lack as a weakness, it would be foolish for you to share a weakness that absolutely has nothing to do with the job.

  • Giving too much detail

Aside from the fact that this will take up much time, which your interviewers surely do not have, it could actually make you say what you are not meant to say. Talking too much might give room to you confessing to something that could raise a red flag with your hiring manager.

Example answer to the question – ‘What is your greatest weakness?’

‘One weakness that I have is that I get really nervous when I have to speak in front of a group of people. One of my short term goals that I’m actively working on is improving my communication skills. In the longer run, this allows me to progress into a role where I can use these skills.

I’m taking extra communication classes outside of work while I also volunteered to assist my manager in coordinating our team projects. I feel working as an assistant will give me a closer look at all the tasks and responsibilities of a manager. Furthermore, it will help me develop into a team-lead role in the future whenever the opportunity comes within the organization.’

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic