How to answer the “What is your greatest weakness” interview question

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published On: 22 Nov 2019

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During interviews, you may sometimes feel a little unprepared when the interviewer asks you “What is your greatest weakness?”. Although it may seem like it, this question is not asked to catch you out. It’s commonly asked by employers to try and see if the candidate is going to be truthful and critically assess what they may not be very good at. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses in the workplace, it’s about turning what may seem to be a negative question, into a positive.

Discuss non-essential skills

Before attending the job interview, make sure you have thoroughly read through the skills required to fill the position. In the description, there may be essential skills listed and then a few ‘soft skills’ that are required for almost every job. These can be things like;

  • Great communication skills
  • Team player
  • Public speaking
  • Organisation skills

Soft skills are useful for almost every job; however, they are not always essential and can be used as great examples for answering this question. Soft skills are ones that can be developed, build upon and developed in the job role. It is important to not mention a skill that is crucial for this job role, it can result in you not getting the job.

Mention skills you have improved

If you are going to mention one of the soft skills mentioned above, make sure that you are keeping it positive. You can reference a skill that isn’t your strong suit but mention that you have taken time to try and improve on this. Whether in your previous role or in your own time. By building upon your answer in a positive way, you are showing the employer that you are open to self-improvement and you are dedicated to becoming a better professional.

Always turn a negative into a positive

Your answer should include what they are asking for but also talk about how the weakness motivates you to improve and become a better employee. It’s always good to mention how it doesn’t get in the way of your productivity and that you are aware of the weaknesses you may have. Being aware of any skills that you need to improve shows that you are forward thinking and open to learning. You can talk about how this job role will be a positive challenge for you and you are motivated to fill the position well and work on any flaws you have.

Try and make it personal and honest

Sticking to the more cliché answers are not always the way to go. Although they may be easy to remember, the interviewer has definitely heard most of them before. They’ve all heard a candidate say, “I’m too much of a perfectionist”. Often, the candidate answering with this statement is not telling the complete truth and it becomes obvious when everyone is giving the same answer. Try and make your answer truthful and more personal to you as an employee. It may just work in your favour.


It’s always best to

  • Prepare a response – It is always best to make sure you have looked over some of the more difficult questions to answer, this being one of them. This way you can prepare a response beforehand. You don’t have to remember this word for word, but it can take some of the pressure off you during the interview.
  • Practice that response – Once you have prepared an answer to the question, make sure you spend some time reading over it or practicing it out loud. Whichever technique works best for you.
  • Be honest – It’s always best to talk about an actual weakness. This makes it a lot easier to remember and is more believable than a more predictable answer.
  • Stay away from negativity – The overall feel of the question is negative. However, remember to stay positive throughout the interview.
  • Focus on accomplishments – Everyone has weaknesses and they should be acknowledged and worked on. Focus on what you are doing or have done to work on the skills that are not your strongest. Focusing on what you have achieved, rather than what you cannot do, is a much better direction to answer the question.

Example

Below is an example of an answer to “What is your greatest weakness?”. In this case, the candidate states that he is too timid with feedback. The structure of the answer, no matter what you chose, will be the same. State your weakness, say why you may need to improve and what you have done to work on this.

“I found that one of my weaknesses at work is giving constructive feedback. I think too much about how my co-worker will feel about my response and I have let that get in the way of work in the past. However, I have come to realise that feedback is there to improve both the project and the employee. I have worked on this in my previous role and will continue to do so in my next job. It is something that takes time to practice, but I realise the importance of providing good feedback.”

The biggest piece of advice you can take when going into an interview is to prepare. Take the time to learn about the company and plan answers for questions that you may think are likely to be asked. There are some common questions, like this one that put a lot of pressure on job-seekers and can put them off the whole interview process. However, the interviewer is not trying to catch you out, they are trying to learn more about you as a professional. Questions like this are there to learn more about how you respond to a tough situation and whether you have prepared for it or not. Always stay positive throughout and be honest about your answers. Your accomplishments balance out the weaknesses.