How to Answer the “What Is Your Greatest Weakness” Question
Having to describe your weakness during an interview is a question that is often dreaded by job candidates. There are some HR professionals who even consider this question old-fashioned but you should still be prepared to answer it.
The key to answering this question is to be honest yet strategic without inadvertently telling the hiring manager you’re unable to do the job. The weaknesses you describe should be skills or qualifications that aren’t crucial for the job at hand.
You also need to address the unspoken follow-up question, which is what you are doing to overcome your weakness. Ultimately, you want to show the hiring manager that you are self-aware, thoughtful, and proactive about your weaknesses.
Wrong Ways to Answer
The worst thing to answer the “what is your greatest weakness” question is to say that you have none or you can’t think of anything. Saying you have no weaknesses reveals to the interviewer that you have no self-awareness or are lying. Everyone has a weakness, so avoid saying that you don’t.
Also, avoid trying to disguise a strength as a weakness such as saying, “I’m such a perfectionist and I can drive my people crazy since I won’t stop until something is done right.” Another common example that people have said in actual interviews is “I am a workaholic and tend to put work before everything else in my life.”
Any derivative of trying to turn obvious strengths into weaknesses will not make you look good. Finally, avoid going into a deep narrative about your weakness as if you were talking to a shrink. You don’t need to bring up childhood trauma to describe a weakness.
Right Ways to Answer
One sound approach is to discuss weaknesses that are not directly relevant to the position. For example, if you were applying for a position as a Court Reporter, you may convey that you are not the best at giving presentations in front of large groups. Speaking in front of large groups is not a usual requirement for a Court Reporter so it won’t make you appear any less qualified.
However, a good habit is to say what you have been doing to improve your weakness. You may say something like, “I am not the best at giving presentations in front of large groups since I never had to it at my previous position; however, I know it’s a valuable skill so I have been going to Toastmasters International to work on it.
Regardless of how you respond, be sure to only speak about weaknesses that are not essential qualifications for the job and talk about how you are working on improving it.
Three Sample Answers:
My greatest weakness is my low patience when a team member withholds important information to the detriment of his/her peers or the assignment’s success. I have always tried to maximize knowledge-sharing by bringing team members together prior to launching any assignment to ensure everyone is on the same page. Yet, there have been times when people have withheld information even after these efforts. In those instances, I have learned to speak privately with those team members to understand why information was withheld.
Sometimes I’m not very good at determining how long a task will take me to finish, especially with smaller jobs. This results in me not delegating enough time to larger, more important tasks and causes me to rush to get things done. To address the issue, I began taking time management classes at the local college.
My greatest weakness is my writing skills since I’ve always been an analytical person and haven’t really focused on it that much. I really enjoy working with numbers but when it comes to words I have a hard time expressing in writing exactly what I mean. One thing that has really helped me recently is that I’ve started using a few great writing apps to make sure my emails are correct and written well. Also, the apps give the whole process a technical feel, which makes it much more comfortable for me.
“What is your greatest weakness” is a common interview question that many candidates don’t like answering; however, if you prepare yourself correctly you can be confident in your response. Avoid saying that you have no weaknesses or disguising a strength as a weakness.
Remember, the weaknesses you describe should be skills or qualifications that aren’t essential for the job at hand. Finally, you need to address the unspoken follow-up question, which is what you are doing to overcome your weakness.
Practice responding to this answer out loud or saying it to someone else until you feel comfortable and it sounds natural.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. When Maria is not working, she enjoys reading and spending quality time with her family.