Speaking about your weaknesses is hard. But it’s even harder in a job interview.
There are so many land mines: trying to disguise a strength as your answer to the “What is your greatest weakness” question, not knowing which weaknesses to mention, mentioning the wrong weaknesses that will cost you an offer, or not highlighting improvements you made to soften the weakness.
But no need to worry! We’ll teach you how to best speak about job interview weaknesses.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Sample answers that cover different job interview weaknesses
- Why do interviewers ask “What is your greatest weakness”?
- How to pick the right weakness to mention during a job interview
- Common mistakes to avoid
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Sample Responses to the “Greatest Weakness” Job Interview Question
First off, here’s a lesson on how to answer “What is your greatest weakness” from our top career coach, Pam. This will give you a few extra pointers on how to nail the answer.
Below, you’ll find good and bad sample answers for the most common “job interview” weaknesses you can mention.
If you want to learn more tips and tricks on answering the most common interview questions, sign up for our free course here!
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Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Is Your Greatest Weakness”?
Interviewers ask “What is your greatest weakness,” as well as its variations “What are your weaknesses,” and “What do you consider your greatest weakness” for several reasons.
To assess your level of self-awareness
Interviewers will ask about your weaknesses to gauge your level of self-awareness — if you’re capable of identifying your weaknesses in the first place, and how you deal with them.
To identify where you might need to improve
From an operational standpoint, this question will help recruiters identify areas in which you can improve. Based on this, they’ll be able to assess if you’re the right fit for the position, if you’ll need on-the-job training, and similar.
To gauge your honesty
Depending on your answer and the weakness you choose to talk about, recruiters will be able to see if you’re being honest (for this reason, you should avoid mentioning “weaknesses” such as perfectionism — more on that later).
How to Answer the “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” Interview Question?
Here are a few strategies for answering the question.
Reflect on your actual weaknesses
We all have flaws and weaknesses and that’s ok. That’s why you shouldn’t lie and diminish your weakness in an interview — or choose the one you don’t actually have in the first place.
Before the interview, carefully reflect on your actual weaknesses. If you’re being insincere in any way, believe us, it will show.
To make a list of your weaknesses, think about:
- Past performance reviews — they are usually good indicators of areas of improvement
- Situations in which you made a mistake
- Situations when you didn’t know what to do
- Examples when you miscommunicated something
- Situations when you felt like what you’re doing is wrong/not good enough
- Any fears and doubts you have
- Any weaknesses or areas of improvement your manager has talked to you about
List them all, one below another, for clarity. It’ll help you pick the right weaknesses.
Choose a weakness that is not a deal-breaker
You have to be extra careful when choosing a weakness you’ll bring up in your answer.
Look at the list of weaknesses you created. Go through each to determine which one would be the best to mention.
Avoid weaknesses that are:
- Directly related to the key skills for the job and would destroy your chances of landing it
- Not relevant (if you’re applying for a Developer position, then, for example, marketing skills are not really relevant)
- “Strengths” disguised as weaknesses (perfectionism, working too much, being too focused, etc.)
Ideally, you should pick weaknesses that:
- Can be mitigated or improved upon
- You’re already working on improving (how you plan to improve them should always be a part of your answer — more on that later)
- Are aligned with the job description and company values
In other words, don’t mention a weakness that’s in direct opposition to the job description or company values.
For example, if you’re applying for a Sales Associate position, you probably shouldn’t mention that you’re reserved and lack persistence. But you can mention that you can get, for example, overly critical of your work, or a bit competitive.
If you’re applying for a Content Writer position, you shouldn’t mention having a lot of typos or struggling to meet deadlines. But you can say you sometimes obsess over research so it makes you a bit slower, or that you lack in-depth SEO knowledge, but you’re already taking an Ahrefs course, or something similar.
Be honest, but don’t overshare
First, avoid fake modesty or self-deprecation.
Understand the balance between honesty and self-preservation.
Be honest, but not at the expense of you getting that job. Being too honest about a minor weakness that’s not essential to the position might ruin the recruiter’s impression of you and cost you an offer.
And in reality, that weakness might not have any effect on your performance, or it could be easily corrected and improved upon through training or a course.
Describe steps taken to address the weakness
As mentioned above, you should always emphasize that you’re striving to improve your weaknesses. Showing actionable steps you’re taking to get better at things will demonstrate your commitment, desire for improvement, and reliability.
✔️ If your weakness is being insecure, talk about the ways you’re working on accepting your good and bad qualities, as nobody’s perfect. Talking to a therapist or reading books helps.
✔️ If you lack presentation skills, talk about how you’re volunteering to present new projects in front of smaller audiences and how you’ll gradually work your way up.
✔️ If you’re lacking data analysis skills, be sure to list courses you’re taking to improve that, or mentors you’re working with to help you with this.
You get the drill. And if you can, provide evidence of improvement (certifications, recommendations, public praises, etc.).
Put your “greatest weakness” answer into context
Put your answer into a broader context and explain how a weakness you mentioned won’t paralyze your performance.
You can do this by highlighting a strength that outweighs that weakness. Or, give an example of how you, with your skillset, fit into your team and do your part despite shortcomings in certain areas.
For example, if verbal communication is your forte and written communication is your weakness, you can describe a situation when you held presentations and QA sessions as part of the onboarding for new team members, while another coworker of yours created written documentation, as writing is their strength.
Showing how your strengths and weaknesses complement those of your team members will give recruiters a broader perspective and leave a more positive impression.
Be prepared for follow-up questions or pushback
Anticipate potential follow-up questions that might be uncomfortable. These might include:
- How exactly this weakness hampered you.
- Details about how you tackled the weakness.
- Questions about if your colleagues or supervisors ever pointed that weakness out to you, and similar.
Not having an answer will get you confused and nervous, you’ll stutter, and the interview might go off the course.
That’s why we highly recommend coming up with answers in advance and practicing your response.
To show up fully prepared for this question (and potential follow-ups), use the Answer Builder to jot down the main points you want to cover. Don’t worry if you haven’t figured them out yet, as it’ll give you bite-sized tips on how to craft your answer.
Step 2, which makes 90% of the difference, is to use the Mock Interview Tool. It’ll help you practice your response once you know the weaknesses you want to mention! You can record yourself as many times as you want until you get your answer right. Then, you’ll get detailed feedback on all elements of your answer: the power words you used, your pace of speech, filler words, vocabulary, and so much more.
Check out how this practice tool helped Abby land an offer at Goldman Sachs:
Stay calm and confident
Keeping your cool during the interview is crucial. But “What is your greatest weakness” is a tricky interview question, so a lot of candidates get especially nervous.
Remind yourself you’re not being interrogated: this is one of the most frequent, standard interview questions.
And remember that everything can be learned. What matters more is the way you talk about it, what you do about it, and if you’re able to even spot it.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Talking About Your Weaknesses
Here’s what to avoid next time a recruiter asks you about your weaknesses.
Providing cliché or disingenuous answers
- I am too much of a perfectionist.
- I work too hard sometimes.
- I care too much about my work.
All bad answers. It’s called humble bragging, it’s dishonest, and it’s an old trick that interviewers can see through.
Disguising your strengths as weaknesses will definitely make you look bad — either like you’re hiding something or just being pretentious.
Being too negative
You don’t want to focus on the negative too much. Avoid detailing how a given weakness has been hampering your career so far.
Briefly mention your weakness, say how you’re working on improving it, end on a positive note, and move on.
Failing to mention steps taken to improve
You need to address the actions you’re taking to improve your weaknesses and become better in those areas.
Failing to mention this will make you look careless and not serious about your career, as recruiters will automatically assume you’re not doing anything to improve your skills.
Why Is a Truthful Answer to the “Weakness” Interview Question So Important?
When it comes to this question, it’s easy to see if you’re lying. So being honest and carefully mapping out your answer is key for several reasons.
Showing a willingness to grow and learn
Recognizing, accepting, and honestly speaking about your weak spots shows that you’re a mature person. It also implies you’re open to accepting help or feedback and you’ll enthusiastically work on improving. Such people are always desirable in any team.
Understanding your limitations
Sometimes we lack the capacity to understand ourselves and objectively observe our behavior. And that’s ok, as long as we’re making conscious efforts to get to know ourselves and understand our limitations.
So your answer to this question will show if you’re able to look at yourself objectively and accept and work on your limitations.
Being honest about a weakness will also help you understand if the position is a good fit for you.
And even if you successfully conceal your true weakness (which is highly unlikely), you will regret it at some point, as the weakness will come back to haunt you and demonstrate you’re not a good fit for the job.
For example, let’s say you’re a great copywriter but you’re lousy at numbers and spreadsheets.
But the copywriting job you’re interviewing for requires you to also track and analyze results, create reports, and run data-based A/B tests. If you fail to mention this as your weakness (and the recruiter doesn’t figure it out), you might get the job. But you’ll end up underperforming. You’ll be stressed out and then you’ll burn out.
If you do mention the weakness, you might not get the job, which is fair enough. On the bright side, if they deem your copywriting skills strong enough, they might still hire you and have another person to manage the operational side of those campaigns. Or, better yet, they’ll help you get better and train you to be more analytical.
Summary of the Main Points
- “What is your greatest weakness” is a question recruiters ask to gauge your level of self-awareness, to identify areas in which you need improvement, and to check if you’re honest.
- To give the right answer, be truthful and reflect on your actual weaknesses.
- Don’t try to present strengths as weaknesses (I work too much or I’m a perfectionist) — you’ll come across as suspicious and pretentious.
- Always describe the steps you’re taking to improve your job interview weaknesses.
- Prepare for this question in advance! 9 out of 10 other candidates won’t do this, so showing up prepared (and ready for follow-ups) will make you stand out.
Need help to prepare for an interview? There are 3 ways we can help you:
- Learn the best tips on how to prepare for an interview here.
- Check out the most common interview questions.
- Tired of interviewing and not landing the job? Discover actionable lessons and interview practice here (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
What are some good weaknesses to mention in an interview?
It’s good to mention weaknesses that are not directly related to key requirements for a position and that are easily fixable: handling stress, conflict resolution, time management, assertiveness, public speaking, or delegating tasks.
Can I lie about my weaknesses in a job interview?
No, this is a standard interview question that recruiters are trained for; they will spot a fake answer from a mile away. Be honest, choose your real weaknesses, and don’t try to disguise strengths as weaknesses.
Should I be concerned about additional questions regarding my weaknesses?
Additional questions about your weaknesses, such as how great of an impact they had on your performance, or if your managers already spoke to you about them, are completely normal. Recruiters just want to get to know you better and see the bigger picture. The key is to practice your answer so you’re prepared for these questions.
What weaknesses should I avoid mentioning in an interview?
Avoid speaking about weaknesses that could directly affect your performance in a particular position. Instead, focus on fixable weaknesses that will not be a threat to your performance. List actions you’re taking to improve them, too.
How do I answer 5 weaknesses in an interview?
Carefully think about which weaknesses to include (recalling past performance reviews might be useful) and make sure you’re honest. List fixable weaknesses that will not have a negative impact on your performance. Always say what you’re doing to improve your weaknesses.