Answering "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview
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?” interview question.
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.
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 a 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 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.
- Like 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.
Examples & Sample Answers For "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?" Interview Question
1. 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.
2. 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 skill set 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. In the past, I have sometimes had problems with my confidence. It has been helpful for me 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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!
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