3 Answers To "What Is Your Greatest Fear?"

Sometimes in an interview you might get the question, “What is your greatest fear?” It’s a little different of a question than them asking about your strengths or weaknesses. When the interviewer asks this they’re trying to gauge what you might be cautious of and whether or not that aligns or doesn’t align to the position that you’re applying for.

Let’s dig into how you would answer this question.

Why Do They Ask, “What Is Your Greatest Fear?”

Simply put, they don’t want to know that you’re afraid of spiders. They want to know that your fear isn’t something that directly correlates to a function that you’d have to perform on the job. For example, if you were applying to be an electrical worker, saying you have a fear of heights isn’t going to bode well. As an electrical worker, you’ll have to go into high places and use a cherry picker or lift to get there.

That’s why the interviewer asks the question. They want to know that your personal needs align with the needs of the position the best it possibly can.

Avoid Answers That Are Generic

The worst thing you can do with this interview question is answer in a way that’s most likely very true. For example, you may be afraid of spiders. But is it really important to tell the interviewer that? Try to think of a fear that’s going to almost make you seem more suitable for the job. It is a slight humble brag in a way. Your answer needs to express a fear but one that’s also applicable to the job function.

What If They Ask About Your Weaknesses

This is very important. If the interviewer is asking about your weaknesses be sure to recognize that this is not the same interview question as "What is your greatest fear?" When they ask anything related to your weaknesses, your answer, as well as the format for your answer, should be different. In order to answer that question correctly, it's recommended that you read the guide here.

Related: Answering "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview

Good Answers Appear Unlike Fears

The best answers essentially don’t look like fears at all. For example, if we were to say that we have a fear of speaking in front of crowds, that’s okay because if we’re applying for a sales position, we’re most likely going to be speaking to only one person at a time. See how we did that? We have a fear of something that’s essentially *not* something that we will have to do within the position.

3 Example Answers To “What Is Your Greatest Fear?”

Here are some example answers you can use to get an idea of the structure to the interview question and answer. Though, it is highly recommended that you think through the position and the department before you answer. You’ll need to be sure you are targeting your response to the job function.

Example for marketing departments

“I’ve always had a great fear of speaking in public. Though, I would love to overcome that fear one day. I feel like speaking in public could be beneficial to my career.”

Example for sales departments

“I have a fear of not evolving. I know that sounds odd but if I’m not challenging myself, that means that I’m not moving forward. And if I’m not moving forward, I feel uncomfortable. It gives me a lot of anxiety. I need to be challenged and progress myself to new levels all the time.”

Example for chef and other trade positions

“I have a fear of letting people down. It’s something that I grew up with. I always felt very empathetic towards others and I care deeply about how they feel. Letting people down does impact me in a great way.”

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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