Answering "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview [2020 Updated]
We’ve all heard this question in an interview, "What is your greatest weakness?" but it’s easy to forget exactly how to answer it properly. There isn’t that much of a rule or formula behind it: Just be honest. But don’t be too honest, and don’t sell yourself short.
This can be a lot harder to do than one would think. That’s why we put together this in-depth guide to answer the common “What is your greatest weakness?” or "What are your weaknesses?" interview question.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Hiring Managers Ask "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
- What Should I Avoid Answering With?
- What Are Some “Good” Weaknesses One Should Share?
- What Are Weaknesses In A Person I Can Use
- List Of Weakness Topics To Help Structure Your Answer
- Is "Overthinking" A Good Weakness
- 14 Best Example Answers To "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
First, let’s look at why exactly do hiring managers throw this curveball during interviews.
Why Do Hiring Managers Ask "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
There are a couple of things a hiring manager is trying to find out by asking you these questions.
First, they are trying to see exactly how you view yourself as a professional person. This is to assess whether or not you have the self-confidence to excel at your job, and also to assess whether or not you possess the self-awareness necessary to recognize and change faults.
Second, they’re also trying to see if you possess a fault that just doesn’t fit in well with the company you’re interviewing for. That’s why being honest is key-- you wouldn’t want to join a company that you don’t fit well with. At the same time, that’s also why you shouldn’t be too honest. If you overanalyze your faults, it could cost you a prospective position.
Pro fact: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire (for a company) is estimated at a minimum 30% of the employee’s first-year salary. This means hiring is now more strict than ever before.
So now that we know why hiring managers throw this question out almost universally, let’s look at what you really shouldn’t respond with.
What Should I Avoid Answering With?
The most stereotypical answer out there usually involves taking the strength of yours and portraying it as a weakness. Here are some examples:
- “I’m just too detail-focused. I’m really thorough with everything I do, it can be a real time-consumer for me.”
- “I tend to care too much about the company I work for.”
- “I’m just too passionate about this industry and it takes up a lot of my emotional energy.”
Don’t answer the question like this. Not only is it cheesy, but it can also easily make you come off as cocky or not self-aware enough, to be honest about your fault. A hiring manager won’t fall for it and you can bet they’ve heard answers like this way too often.
Hiring managers are asking this question because they want to hear a real weakness. They want to know more about you as a prospective employee, so non-answers like the ones above are a poor choice to go with.
Now that we know what not to do, let’s look at what we should do when answering these kinds of questions.
What Are Some “Good” Weaknesses One Should Share?
There are a few guidelines you should follow when answering this tough interview question:
- Be honest about the weakness you’re describing. Don’t make up a weakness that you think will sound better.
- Go with something based on skill rather than personality. For example, you may bring up that you’re bad at meeting deadlines. A hiring manager could see this as something that will cause issues in the future, so avoid mentioning that fault. Instead, bring up that you don’t have a lot of skill in a particular technology, like Wordpress or coding. Just make sure you mention that you’re extremely open to learning and are already teaching yourself about this skill presently.
- When choosing a lack of a skill to mention, be sure to go with a skill that is relevant to the position you’re applying for but not a skill that is vital to the position. If you can’t do the basic thing that they want you to do in this position, there’s really no point in bringing it up or even interviewing for the position.
- As we mentioned before, be sure to make it clear that you are remedying the lack of skill currently. If you go with a fault that isn’t skill-based, rehearse exactly what you’ll say to reassure the hiring manager that you’re working on it.
- When talking about the remedy for the fault you’ve mentioned, make specific comments about the progress you’ve made. For example, maybe you need to know passable Chinese for the position but you’re a bit rusty. Mention this fault, bring up that you’re currently taking online classes to learn Chinese, and bring up the fact that you’re rapidly improving in grammar specifically.
Let’s take a look at some stellar “What are your greatest weaknesses?” examples that you can use as a template or inspiration for your future interview.
What Are Weaknesses In A Person I Can Use
Here's a list of weaknesses that are often found in people in the workplace. Be advised that these are not weaknesses that you should use. You should use topic style weaknesses which can be found in the next list. But when you think about answering weaknesses that relate to you as a person, these are some great examples. Some of the weaknesses in a person include:
- Sense of creativity.
- Sense of humor.
- Sense of humility.
- Sense of patience.
- Sense of risk averseness.
- Sense of awareness.
- Sense of self-worth.
List Of Weakness Topics To Help Structure Your Answer
If you feel like you're struggling to structure your own personal weaknesses. Here are a few good examples you can use to structure your own weaknesses:
- Struggling to be direct about what you want.
- Struggling to have patience.
- Struggling by multitasking too much.
- Struggling to balance work/life mix.
- Struggling to manage risk.
- Struggling to stay organized under pressure.
- Struggling to take cricism constructively.
- Struggling not to have too much passion about the work.
Is "Overthinking" A Good Weakness
This is becoming a popular question, "Is saying I overthink a good weakness to use in an interview?" The answer is NO. Overthinking often is interpreted as the idea that you don't have confidence. That you think through your execution or idea but don't have a commitment to it. That isn't going to be perceived as the type of weakness that an interviewer wants to hear about.
Pro tip: In a Job Outlook Survey performed by NACE in 2019, it was mentioned that communication skills (written and verbal) were one of the biggest skills desired by employers. Knowing how to answer interview questions like "describe yourself" test these skills.
However, if you want to use something that's similar, try saying that your weakness is that you are a perfectionist. This is going to make it seem as though your weakness is truly positive like we've described in our methods above. Be sure that when you deliver this, you explain that it is not a humble-brag. But truly something that you recognize can annoy others and are consistently working on improving it.
14 Best Example Answers To "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
Yes, I do have a couple of weaknesses. My biggest weakness is probably my inability to work well on a team. That’s why I became a writer. I get to spend most of my time alone, and I feel like I work better that way.
When I look at my skill set like a portfolio, one weakness right now I can pinpoint would be my coding ability. It’s just not something that I’ve been asked to do since graduating. I understand the basics of Python and whatnot, but I’m pretty rusty in terms of working hands-on with it. Currently, I’m using the next few months to broaden my skillset through an online class in CSS. I think it would help me be more well-rounded and would filter down into other areas that I use more often in my work.
I’m not very good at visualizing how long a task will take me to finish. I quite often underestimate the time it will take to do smaller, less detailed jobs. The result is that I don’t allow enough time to larger and more important projects. I have to rush to get things done, and it’s a very bad habit that makes me miss deadlines. To address the problem, I’ve started taking time management courses at my local college.
My greatest weakness is that I sometimes focus too much on the details of a project and spend too much time analyzing the tiny points of it. I’ve been trying to improve in this area by checking in with myself at regular intervals and giving myself a chance to take a step back and focus on the bigger picture. That way I can still ensure quality without getting so caught up in the details that it affects my productivity or my ability to meet the deadline.
I have two greatest weaknesses, actually. The first is my issue with sharing responsibilities. The second is remaining a bit too patient during group projects. I want to be in control, and I don’t trust others with work I know I can do better. If I have to share a task, I lose my patience when I start to suspect that the other person isn’t doing it right. I’ve discussed these weaknesses with my supervisor as things I’d like to improve. We have set up a timeline and a set of goals for me to achieve. I’ve enrolled in a great team-building workshop as well. I’m learning to let go and trust my teammates, and my boss has complimented me on my progress thus far.
My greatest weakness is that I often have a hard time letting go of a project. I’m the biggest critic of my work naturally, and I can always find something that needs to be improved or changed when it is way too late. To help myself get past this, I give myself deadlines for revisions that I absolutely must meet.
One of my biggest faults is that I can’t sit still and focus for extended periods of time. I was never a calm right-brained type and I always preferred sports and hands-on activities. To make sure that I got through school with good grades, I set goals for myself when it came to studying. I would sit still and focus on homework materials for half an hour. Then, I would reward myself with a break to run around or hang out with friends. This system I lived by taught me discipline and helped me focus. I graduated from high school with honors and I am currently in college on a sports scholarship.
My greatest weakness is that I tend to be a “yes” man and end up taking on more than I can handle. In the past, this has made me burn out hard. To help myself improve, I use a project management application on my smartphone so I can really visualize how much work I have at any given moment and know whether or not I have the time or energy to take on more.
I would say my greatest weakness is my skills when it comes to writing. I’ve always been a technical, mathematical person. I like working with numbers, but when it comes to words, I get tongue-tied and forget the rules. It’s just not a language I’m good at. I’ve started using handy grammar apps to make sure my emails are correct and professional.
My greatest fault is that I get very impatient when projects run past their deadlines. I’m super focused on due dates and get uncomfortable when work is not done on time. To avoid this, I’ve started being more proactive and paying attention to how I’m reacting to make sure I’m being motivational and helping foster efficiency, rather than naggy and useless.
In the past, I have sometimes had problems with my confidence. It has been helpful for me to keep a running document of the impact I have made on my current team and at my company to better understand why I should be confident about the skills I bring to the table. I have also made it a point to voice my opinions during meetings when I feel they are appropriate. Because of this attempt at being outward, my team ended up adopting an idea I mentioned for a new coding process, which resulted in a fifteen percent decrease in time taken to update our application in the last quarter.
My greatest weakness is that I am a shy and nervous person naturally. The result is that I have a hard time speaking up in large groups. Even if I have fantastic ideas, I have trouble expressing them. I remember one time I suggested an idea for a project. The project manager shot it down and I did not push it. However, the supervisor heard about my idea and it bothered him that I didn’t fight for it. I decided that it was time to sign up for public speaking classes. The next time I was assigned to a project, I stood by my best ideas. I spoke up and asked the project manager to take a second look at what I had suggested. He agreed that my idea was quite lucrative upon further inspection. My supervisor noticed the improvement and promoted me to management just last year, and now I head up a team of six people despite being so shy.
Because I am independent and enjoy working fast, it has been hard for me to ask for help when I need it. I have learned that it is much more beneficial both for me and the company to reach out when I do not understand something or feel burned out. I also understand that there are many pros around me that have the knowledge and skills that can make my work much better. While I am still working on improving this fault, I have been able to produce more quality work as a result of getting help from my team.
In the past, I have found it hard to work with aggressive personalities. While I understand diversity in personalities makes a company very strong, I tend to quiet my own good ideas and opinions around louder coworkers. To deal with this, I have made it a point to spend more time with coworkers I feel uncomfortable working with. By learning more about them, their communication style, their motivations, I am better able to work with these personality types so that we both can contribute our strengths and skills properly.
How was our guide to “What is your greatest weakness?” answers? Tell us about your go-to answer when asked this common interview question in an email!
Job Interview Questions FAQ
Below are common questions job seekers have regarding these common interview questions.
When should I be prepared with my answers?
When you have your job interview lined up. Your interviewer will ask you, "What are your weaknesses?" or "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" When they ask about your strengths and weaknesses, be sure to read our other guide on coming up with strengths that align with your future job title.
How can I show my interviewer I have a lot of experience?
Showing your experience through this answer can be simple. Align what qualities you feel are important to the job function based on your previous experience.
Will these weaknesses have any impact on my career path?
No. Everyone has weaknesses, what is best is that you're showing you comprehend them and have ideas on how to overcome them.
What if I say one of my weaknesses is constructive criticism?
I would avoid this answer. It says that you might be difficult to deal with. Avoid answers that might suggest you have difficulty taking direction or taking feedback.
When should I use the keyword "areas for improvement"?
Using this term can show your professionalism. The way to use this is to list some weaknesses very quickly and then say, "These are some areas for improvement."
Why shouldn't I bring up an irrelevant weakness when being asked this question in the interview process?
Because you want your weakness to be a quality that can make you a good fit for the job.
How should this weakness question align with my resume?
It only needs to align with your previous job experience. For example, your weaknesses might be developed through too much exposure to one particular job or job function.
Should I include a soft skill in my interview answer for this question?
You don't need to. Your weakness should support something that you developed through your prior experiences. It won't truly be a negative. For example, caring too much about the creative process. For example, talking about technical skills, writing skills, communication skills, delegating skills, for example, aren't going to be as helpful as saying, "I tend to want to get overly involved in the work, which prevents me from properly delegating tasks at times."
Why does an employer ask this question?
It's helpful to get an idea of your competencies and how you handle self-assessment like this.
Should I mention a hard skill?
Probably not. It's not necessary. In this sample answer, "I tend to want to get overly involved in the work, which prevents me from properly delegating tasks at times" a hard skill isn't prevalent.
As a job seeker, will my answer to this job interview question have any impact on me receiving a job offer?
It's vital to know how to identify ways you can improve your work. Self-assessment is important. It may not be a deal-breaker for your job offer but this is an interview question you should have a good answer to. Knowing how you answer this question, having a framework for it, and a simple pitch (90-seconds or less) can be impactful to your job search as a job candidate.
What if I can't figure out what one of my weaknesses are?
Ask a previous colleague. Ask them what they believe your weaknesses are. Be open to their answer in a constructive way. This can be a great way to identify where you can improve in your career and what your employer might value. It's a form of research. And can be helpful in figuring out how to you pitch yourself when asked this common job interview question.
Other "Strength & Weaknesses" Resources
- Learn how to answer the interview question "What is your greatest strength?" - 19 Answers To "What Is Your Greatest Strength?"
- Learn how to answer the interview question "What is your greatest weakness?" - Answering "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview
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