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How To Answer The Interview Question What is Your Greatest Weakness

Updated on Jun 19, 2020 3412 views
How To Answer The Interview Question What is Your Greatest Weakness

You have an interview session that is going really well, you are nailing all the answers, hitting all your talking points, till the interviewer drops the major bombshell which is “ What are your weaknesses?” 


When you’ve been asked this question, there is no need for you to panic, because this is a common interview question which interviewers typically ask to gauge how much growth you have experienced career-wise and how well you thrive with your shortcomings.


And as long as you have the right answers to this single interview question, then it wouldn’t be as much of a problem as it poses itself to be in your job interview.


On that note, for this article, we will be showing you how to answer “what is your weakness” interview question and every other thing you should know about answering this question.


In this article, we’ll discuss…

  • How to answer “what is your weakness?” interview question

  • List of weakness examples based on skills

  • Best answers to “what is your weakness?”

  • How not to answer “what is your weakness?” interview question


How To Answer “What Is Your Weakness?” Interview Question

This question can take you unawares and if your anxiety that the interviewer wants to get you to admit your faults so that he can disqualify you for the job keeps building, then you will most likely answer in a way that will give him a reason to.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with being asked this question in an interview (it's standard procedure) and if you can answer it correctly and turn it around to make you seem more human and eager to develop in your chosen field to the interviewer, then you have already passed the question.


Here are some tips to keep in mind when answering this question:


1. Discuss Your Weaknesses First And Strengths Second

Most times, the interviewer may ask you about your strengths and weaknesses as the same question. Other times, he may also ask you as two different questions.


In the event that they are asked as the same question - "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"  start off by answering your weaknesses first, and your strengths second so that you can end on a positive note.


2. Base Your Answer On Examples Relating To Skills/ Habits And Personality Traits

When addressing the question use examples that are related to a skill, habit or personality trait. You should choose either of these things, depending on the type of job you are applying for. 


If you are applying for a technical position, choosing a skill or habit to discuss can be of relevance to the position. For a sales or customer service role, the interviewer will be interested in your personality traits.


While answering the weakness interview question, either answer with a relevant skill you didn't have before, but is now trying to acquire or have acquired, talk about a habit you struggled with previously in the past, but have now managed to turn around or break or a personality trait you had, that you have changed or turned into something positive.


3. Add How Your Weakness Affected Your Professional Life And How You Handled It

Talk about your past weaknesses, and then add an example or give a brief example of how that weakness affected you professionally. 


Talking about how you overcame it, shows the interviewer how much growth you have made career-wise and how self-aware you are.


4. Choose A Weakness That Won’t Affect Your Work Performance

Job seekers are often encouraged to be honest when answering this question, yet it is not all types of weaknesses you should give away to the interviewer. Especially if it is a weakness that would negatively affect your performance in that role. 



Saying “I’m not very good at calculations and struggle with maths” when you are applying for an accountant or data analyst role is something you should never say, because this weakness affects your work performance.


However, if what you are applying for is a writing position you could choose a weakness that doesn’t directly affect your role by saying...

“I struggle with numbers and don’t have much experience in data analytics. Although maths is not required for my job as a writer, I still believe that I should have a basic understanding of Google Analytics so that I can be sure my work is performing well, which is why I am currently taking a course in Google Analytics so I can have a better understanding of it’’.


5. Give An Example To Show How You Overcame Your Weakness

Telling the interviewer how you overcame a weakness, has more credibility if you back it up with instances and examples.


Don’t just tell them how you struggle with time management before and suddenly overcame it, give a brief explanation on how things are different for you now and how you managed to manage your time or learned a new skill that helped you combat said weakness.


6. Show That You Are More Self-Aware

If your weakness was about how you had a hard time working with others because you prefer to carry the entire task on your back or couldn’t take other people’s ideas into consideration, make sure that you present answer shows your evolution from loner to team-player or from speaker to good listener.


There should be a part of your answer that highlights the time when you understood and recognized that your behaviour was a weakness that needed fixing.


7. Find The Balance In Your Answer

When discussing your journey to overcoming a weakness your tone shouldn’t undermine your efforts towards bettering yourself, it should be confident, but not arrogant. Try to find the balance in your answer.


8. Be Honest

Be honest about your answers and only talk about weaknesses that are a real thing.


List Of Weakness Examples Based On Skills

When choosing a weakness to talk about in a job interview, it is important that you be truthful and pick a shortcoming you have which the interviewer wouldn’t consider to be a necessary skill required for a job role.


It should be a weakness that you can easily improve on even if it is a potential problem for the job or you are already working on fixing.


In addition, you can select a weakness based on whether they are a hard skill, soft skill or interpersonal skill to help you identify easily, which areas you are lacking in.


Some weakness examples based on skills include:


Hard Skills Weaknesses

Hard skills are specific job abilities that are quantifiable, they are acquired through learning and training. Example of hard skills includes - data analysis, project management, and design.


If you do choose a hard skill as a weakness, make sure it is one that isn’t a crucial requirement for the job and don’t forget to point out that you are already improving that skill, or plan to.  Also, mention the steps you are taking towards it.


Example of hard skill weaknesses you can mention at an interview are:


  • Creative writing

  • Marketing

  • Code language

  • Financial literacy

  • Advanced mathematics

  • A particular language that is foreign for you (Spanish, French, Portuguese)

  • A software package

  • Spelling

  • Data analysis


Soft Skills Weaknesses

Soft skills form the basis of your personality traits, as well as your communication and social skills.


If your weakness is a soft skill, before you admit in a job interview, make sure it is not necessarily relevant to the job, and you already have measures in place to improve on it.


Some soft skills weaknesses are:


  • Disorganized

  • Perfectionism (be ready with an instance of how this has proven to be a weakness for you, even if it can be viewed as a strength).

  • Competitive (the same rule for perfectionism applies for this)

  • Take on too much responsibility

  • Not detail-oriented / too concerned with details

  • Not skilled at delegating tasks

  • Too focused/ easily distracted

  • Not comfortable taking risks/ taking too many risks


Interpersonal Skills Weaknesses

For this set of skills, you can mention a weakness that affects how you work with others. When stating your interpersonal skills weaknesses, try not to come across as not being able to work well with your colleagues.


Some interpersonal skills you can mention as weaknesses you can mention are:


  • Expecting too much from co-workers

  • Getting too frustrated with slackers 

  • Covering for co-workers

  • Non-confrontational

  • Struggle with public speaking or group presentation

  • Too sensitive

  • Internalizing client’s problems or getting too emotionally involved with clients

  • Too critical with others’ work or too blunt with feedback


Work Ethic Weaknesses

Sometimes, your weakness could be your work ethic. If that is the case for you, you shouldn’t answer “I work too hard” because even if that is your actual work ethic weakness, it does sound insincere and cliche.


However, more honest and believable ways to show that you work “too hard” or have a work ethic weakness would be to say any of the following things:


  • Shifting from one uncompleted project to another

  • Taking credit for group projects and being the one to shoulder the most responsibility

  • Providing too many details in a report

  • Being too much of a perfectionist

  • Uncompromising

  • Procrastination (because you still get the work done and meet your deadlines)


Best Answers To “What Is Your Weakness?”

Here are some of the best answers to “what is your weakness?” interview questions, and why they absolutely work.


1. Can’t Work Well In A Team

“I am self-sufficient and prefer to handle tasks alone. As a result of this, I get impatient when working in a team and find it difficult to rely on my teammates, that is why I often opt for tasks that require a single person to do them.

Nevertheless, to overcome this weakness, I have enrolled in team-building classes, I’m undertaking projects that require me to be paired with someone, or be in a team. While I like working independently, I am also learning to trust my teammates to do their part of a job perfectly and no longer hesitate to ask for help when I need it”.


Why This Answer Works -

Being unable to work in a team is not a weakness that will impair you from successfully handling tasks that require you to work independently.


Also, stating that you are taking steps towards combating this weakness, shows that you are eager to turn that weakness around.


2. Too Detail Oriented

“My weakness is that I get too preoccupied with details, that I spend too much analyzing the finer point and sometimes miss the bigger picture. As a way to control this weakness, what I do is give myself a chance to re-focus on the bigger picture. 

This way, I am still able to produce quality work void of error, without getting too caught up with the details that it affects my productivity or the team’s capability to complete a project in a timely manner”.


Why This Answer Works -

Being detail-oriented can be a good thing, but focusing too much on details is where the glitch is. 


By telling the interviewer that you are detail-oriented, it shows that you can help the company avoid tiny unnoticeable mistakes and but still being able to see the bigger picture shows a sort of balance in your work ethics.


3. Disorganized

“I am disorganized and often work with a cluttered desk.  While this weakness has never affected my work, I have come to realize that it does affect my efficiency to deliver on a task. 

What I do now is to set time aside to declutter and organize my desk. And so far I have seen an increase in my efficiency, I no longer have a hard time finding important documents arranged inside my drawer”.


Why This Answer Works -

This answer works because most workers have cluttered desks, so it is a relatable and fixable weakness. At the same time, you acknowledged that it doesn’t affect your work (so, it wouldn’t be something the interviewer should worry about). 


Admitting that it does affect your efficiency and that you are taking tasks to improve your efficiency, shows self-awareness and self-improvement.


4. Can’t Let Go Of A Project

“I am the type of person who is too critical of their work, and even after I have completed a project, I become unsatisfied with it and have a hard time letting go. As a result, I resort to making last-minute changes which in turn threaten the timeline for submission. 

To curb this behaviour, what I do is to set aside a day for reviewing my project before the final submission. That way I don’t waste time correcting it at the last minute or on the day of submitting it”.


Why This Answer Works -

There’s always room for improvement after you’ve completed an assignment, and although last-minute proofreading can help eliminate mistakes that were probably missed the first time, over-criticizing your work or making last-minute changes affects the timeline for submission.


If this is your weakness, saying that you set aside a day to make corrections before the deadline, shows how you are working towards improving yourself and taking a proactive approach towards making changes.


5. Have A Hard Time Delegating Tasks

“I am self-motivated, and often have a hard time delegating tasks to others, especially if it is for a project I can easily finish by myself. But when I became the team leader in my last role, I was put in a position where I had to be the one assigning tasks to others. 

It took me some time to adjust to this position, but because assigning tasks to others was necessary to the successful execution of a project,  I put in place a project management system that helped me oversee the progress of an assignment. That way I was able to keep an eye on my team, maintain control and still delegate tasks efficiently”.


Why This Answer Works -

It shows that you are able to learn a new skill when a new role requires you to and that you are flexible, which is necessary for long-term growth. 


By stating that you implemented a working system that helped you get over your weakness of being unable to delegate tasks, you showed a level of initiative and leadership.


6. Have Trouble Saying No

My weakness is that I have a hard time saying no to people’s requests, even when I don't have the capacity or time to help them out. 

This has left me burned out in the past, and led to me not being able to finish my own task or take on more than I can handle.

To help myself improve, I use a project management app to track how many tasks I have and check if I can take on extra requests”.


Why This Answer Works-

There is nothing wrong with helping your co-workers complete their own tasks and do yours as well. 


But from an employer’s perspective, an employee who spends too much time helping others rather than doing their own work is eager and dedicated, but they don’t know where their limit is and always end up being the ones to ask for a deadline extension.


If you are someone who can’t bring themselves to say no, share what you are doing to organize and prioritize your tasks, and set realistic expectations with yourself and those around you too.


7. Too Timid To Give Feedback To Others

“I am often reluctant and timid to give constructive feedback to my managers and co-workers because I don’t know how they’ll react to it and I am too scared to hurt their feelings or bruise their ego. 

But in my last job, a co-worker made a habit of asking for my feedback and for me to review his work whenever he finished a task, though I was worried at first, with him I learned that feedback can be both helpful and kind when you deliver it the right way. 

Since then I have become better at offering constructive feedback the right way, without making the person feel bad or worrying if that’s the effect I’ll have on them”.


Why This Answer Works-

It works because you explained how you turned a weakness into a strength and how you overcame timidity, which is a flaw in the workplace. It also shows that you are assertive.


8. Struggle With Public Speaking

“Speaking in public, at events makes me nervous. And although I don’t need much in my role as a web developer, I still feel that it is an important skill to possess, in case I need to give my opinion in a meeting.

To overcome my fear of public speaking, I volunteer to speak for a few minutes at every meeting we have, on project timelines, deadlines, and goals when developing a website for a new client. 

The more I spoke, the easier it became for me to relax at meetings and see that speaking actually helped my colleagues understand a project better and execute their tasks effectively”.


Why This Answer Works-

You mentioned your weakness in a skill that wasn’t necessary for your line of work, but you wanted to develop either way. This shows a willingness on your path to exceed business needs in your role and to acquire new skills that definitely come in handy.


Also, by volunteering to speak in meetings, you recognized that you had a weakness and took a step towards overcoming it to make things easier for your team whose tasks would probably suffer if you didn’t explain things to them.


9. Not Great At Data Analysis

“I am a content writer who isn’t great at analysing data or numbers. This particular skill isn’t that necessary given what I do, but I recognized that it is a flaw regardless and could hinder me from understanding how each content I put up online perform.

So in my previous role, I set up meetings with the SEO manager to discuss analytics and how our content was performing. He also taught me basic things about using  Google Analytics. 

I took the extra step of taking the Google Analytics course and also obtained a certificate. I am much better at data analysis through these efforts”.


Why This Answer Works-

You showed that you can go above and beyond your job description, and acquire skills that immensely contribute to the company’s growth. 


This mentality of putting your company’s needs first shows the interviewer that you are dedicated to making yourself a valuable asset (not just stating it in your personal statement or cover letter) and willing to understand the needs of the entire content department, not just your role.


10. There Are Some Areas You Can Use Improvement In

“I have been working for a while now and during my experience, I picked a lot of valuable skills which has definitely helped me develop myself both professionally and career-wise. 

However, a few other areas I could use improvement in are - written communication, verbal communication, team leadership, interpreting analytics, marketing, and some specific programs (PowerPoint presentation, excel, etc.)"


Why This Answer Works-

As a job candidate, there are areas you could certainly use improvement in, even if you are okay in those areas. Realizing this as a weakness and wanting to improve on them, shows that you are self-aware, progress-driven, and like to challenge yourself.


However, when you are mentioning these areas that are a weak point, make sure that they are not directly relevant in the job role you are applying for.

How Not To Answer “What Is Your Weakness?” Interview Question

Here are a few tips to keep in mind on things you shouldn’t say or do when answering “what is your weakness?” interview question:


1. Answering With “I tend to work too hard” or “I am a perfectionist”

While you would want to appear as the perfect candidate before the interviewer, using these phrases makes you sound insincere and lacking self-awareness.


2. Mentioning A Weakness That Could Hinder You From Succeeding In The Role

Example - admitting that you are bad at project management when you are applying for a project management role.


3. Answering With A Negative Tone

Having a weakness doesn't necessarily make you a bad candidate and when your interviewer asks you this question is because they just want to know how self-aware you are when it comes to recognizing your flaws and how willing you are to better yourself.


So when answering this question, answer with confidence, take a positive note and body language, and make sure you steer their attention towards measures you are taking or have already taken to overcome your weakness.


Final Answer…

When you are asked this question at an interview or other interview questions such as tell me about yourself, there is no need for you to panic, avoid the question or say that you don’t have any weaknesses. Just breathe, relax and remember to use everything you have learned in this article.

Click here to read our guide on how best to answer the interview question "what sets you apart from other candidates"

Staff Writer

This article was written and edited by a staff writer.

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