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What Is Your Greatest Weakness: Weakness Interview Question

June 4, 2019

The dreaded “what is your biggest weakness?” question comes up in your job interview and now what? Maybe your palms start to sweat or your mind starts to race. If so, that’s normal. Many people hate being about their biggest weakness in an interview. It can be tricky because many people find bringing attention to their weaknesses awkward. To be sure you don’t enter panic mode, it’s a good plan to enter the interview prepared with personal weaknesses. Weaknesses are not easy to think of on the spot, and it’s likely the interviewer is looking more so at how you answer, rather than what you answer.

  1. Why interviewers ask “what are your greatest weaknesses”
  2. How to answer “what are your weaknesses?”
  3. Three weakness examples to say in a job interview
  4. Interview questions about professional weaknesses
  5. List of greatest weaknesses to use in an interview

Why interviewers ask “what are your greatest weaknesses”

In simple terms, when asked “what is your biggest weakness”, the employer wants to know whether or not you are qualified to do the job. They want to see through all your prim and proper previous answers and hear something raw and authentic. They want to see past the interview and gain a better understanding of what you’re like to work with.

When the interviewer asks for greatest weakness examples, they are looking to see how you answer, not so much what you answer. They are usually looking to see three qualities in your answers: self-awareness, honesty, and self-improvement.

An ideal candidate to an employee won’t deny they have weaknesses (we are all human). It’s important to be honest when talking about your weaknesses, especially because they will be able to tell if you’re lying, and that’s one of the worst things you could do in an interview. Another reason they will ask about personal weaknesses is to hear about your self-improvement. This is where you can include details about how you have corrected a weakness or learned a new skill.

Another important thing to remember is to not disguise a strength as a weakness. Interviewers are aware of different techniques people use in interviews, and they will see right through it. For example, saying, “I’m such a perfectionist and it can sometimes get in the way of my work” is not the best way to answer what your weakness is. This may come off to the interviewer like you’re avoiding the question.

How to answer “what are your weaknesses?”

Now that you know why interviewers are asking you what your weaknesses are, let’s get right into how to answer what is your weakness. There are several different ways how to answer “what is your weakness”, but there’s one rule to always keep in mind. A good weakness always includes two key parts: the weakness, and how you are working to improve it. Always mention a weakness that isn’t critical to the job and ways you can improve the weakness. For the second part, talk about your proactive efforts. This shows the employer self-improvement and that a weakness doesn’t slow you down.

Now, time to brainstorm your weaknesses. Where to start? Well, first, make a list of your professional and personal weaknesses in advance. You can take a look at our list of professional weaknesses below, but it’s also good to think of some yourself. Start by thinking and ask yourself, is there a task or skill that I don’t excel in? Or was there a time I failed at work? Once you’ve come up with a list, browse the weaknesses and pick the ones that you have worked hard to correct. Start work shopping the weaknesses that you have actually put effort in fixing. Think, have I taken a class? Gotten training? Gotten help from an advisor? These are all great things the interviewer is looking to hear when you answer what your weaknesses are.

When thinking about weaknesses, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, be authentic. Don’t just pick a weakness out of a long list because you think it sounds good. Pick a weakness that is acceptable for the job you’re applying to. A great tip is to look at the job posting carefully. Make sure not to cite a weakness that is directly related to the job you are interviewing for. For example, if you are applying to be an administrative assistant, don’t talk about disliking spreadsheets and your lack of organizational skills. It’s key to tailor your weaknesses to the job description.

Okay, so now that you have a list of personal weaknesses, how do you actually answer them in the interview? There are a few ways to answer.

Discuss non-essential skills.This means analyzing key skills and strengths required for the job at hand, and then coming up with an honest personal weakness that isn’t essential for success in that job. Be sure to explain how you are working toward fixing this shortcoming. This technique works well because it’s a weakness that isn’t critical to the success of the job.

Choose to mention skills that you have improved upon in the past.These may be academic weaknesses or personal weaknesses. This type of weakness answer shows the interviewer that you have improved and are always looking to grow. For example, in the second part of your weakness, share the actions you’ve taken to improve like enrolling in a class, training, or getting help from a mentor or advisor. Use your answer to show your motivation to be the best at what you do.

Be authentic. Choose a weakness that is true to you. Think through your personal weaknesses and your academic weaknesses. Remember not to just choose a weakness because it sounds good. Like mentioned above, it won’t come across as sincere. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to choose a weakness that will make you look bad, just choose one that is interview-friendly. Check out our greatest weakness examples later on in this article.

Three weakness examples to say in a job interview

So, what are good weaknesses for a job interview? Below we’ve compiled three great answers to use the next time you’re asked “what are your weaknesses”, depending on the job and if it applies.

Delegation

Mentioning delegation as a weakness is a good option for a junior or entry level worker who will not be responsible for any sort of delegation in the job. This is not a terrific answer if you are applying for any type of position that includes delegation, like a manager. Here is how you could explain this personal weakness:

“One of my weaknesses is that I am not great at delegating to others. Even if I have great ideas and know that others would be willing to help out, I struggle speaking up and telling them what to do. Once I delegated a task to a co-worker and they did not take me seriously and it upset me. I decided it was time to speak to my advisor about confidence and how to stand my ground in the workplace. Speaking with him really helped my professional and personal elf-esteem. The next time I had to delegate a project, I felt more confident, which in turn made my coworkers take me more seriously. Despite being nervous sometimes, I now try my best to delegate when necessary.”

Public Speaking

Having a fear or public speaking is quite common. Since this is a common fear and therefore weakness, make sure to make it personal with stories and a positive attitude toward it. For example, clarify whether your weakness is public speaking in large groups or intimate settings.

“One area I have improved on in the past is my public speaking. As a digital marketing manager who mainly works internally, I don’t typically have to do any sort of public speaking. However, since I am the only one on our small team who stays up-to-date on SEO and keywords, I sometimes have to give presentations to the rest of the company. Since I knew public speaking wasn’t my strong suit, I took an online course. It improved my confidence and how I view public speaking. I have a much better idea of how to engage with an audience, my timing, and my body language. I hope to continue improving in the future. “

Focus

Focus is a great weakness to mention if it does not apply to the job offer specifically. Many people struggle with focus, especially for long periods of time. Be sure to be honest and show positive improvement in your answer.

“I’d say my main weakness is that I find it hard to sit still and focus for long periods of time. I was never someone who could sit down and read a book. I always wanted to play sports or go out on a walk. But, to make sure I would graduate with great grades, I would set goals for myself. I would set a timer and sit still and focus on studying and studying alone. After, I would reward myself with a break to do something active or social. This system taught me discipline and I have carried it with me throughout my career.”

Interview questions about professional weaknesses

Here are some of the many different weakness questions that are typically asked in interviews.

What is your greatest weakness?

What are some of your weaknesses?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

If I were to call a previous manager, what would they say that you need to work on?

Tell me about a development goal you have set for yourself?

If you could change one thing about yourself in the professional setting, what would it be?

What are you looking to improve this year?

Where are your weakest areas?

Tell me about a time you failed.

Possible follow up questions:

Describe a difficult work situation that you overcame.

What part of the job will be most challenging for you?

Can you share another weakness?

How will you improve these weaknesses?

List of greatest weaknesses to use in an interview:

When thinking of the best weaknesses to say in a job interview, think of them in different categories. You can think of weaknesses as personal weaknesses and academic weaknesses. Below is an extensive list of weaknesses you can use the next time you’re asked “what is your biggest weakness?”

Hard skills:

  • Advanced math
  • Creative writing
  • Financial literacy
  • Languages
  • Spelling
  • Fast typing
  • Writing skills

Soft skills

  • Team work
  • Organization
  • Delegation
  • Sharing responsibility
  • Focus
  • Shyness
  • Humor
  • Over talking
  • Being too honest
  • Being too candid
  • Taking too many risks
  • Patience
  • Multitasking
  • Confidence
  • Leadership

Interpersonal skills

  • Public speaking
  • Presentations
  • Confrontation
  • Taking the blame/covering up for coworkers
  • Critical thinking
  • Too sensitive

Work ethic

When talking about a “work ethic” weakness, be careful not to disguise a strength as a weakness.

  • Leaving projects unfinished
  • Taking on too much
  • Taking credit for group projects
  • Procrastination
  • Providing too much detail

Use this list to help you construct your own weaknesses for your next job interview. And remember: be honest, make sure your weakness does not directly relate to the job you’re applying for and talk about what you are doing to improve it. If you follow these steps and everything else discussed in this article, you will do nothing but impress the interviewer. If you feel you’ve mastered the “what is your greatest weakness” question, read up on how to answer “what is your greatest strength” here.

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