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Interview Question: What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?

February 14, 2020

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If you have an interview coming up, you might be feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness at the same time. To give yourself a confidence boost, it’s best to fully prepare before the big day.

It’s not possible to predict every question you’ll be asked but there are common interview questions that you should prepare for. One of these questions, “What is your greatest weakness?”, is a great chance to share your professional development goals and to express your desire to continually improve.

Knowing how to answer this question can be tricky. Keep reading to learn how you can respond truthfully while adding a positive spin.

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What interviewers mean when they ask “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

The key to answering this question is acknowledging that everyone has flaws. Hiring managers ask about your greatest weakness to evaluate your self-awareness. Can you assess your current talents and identify areas for improvement? Giving an authentic answer lets them know you’re able to be honest with yourself and others about how you can grow both as a person and a colleague. It shows your drive to reach professional goals, as well as the likelihood that you will become a valuable team member who takes initiative and solves problems.

Keep in mind that hiring managers are looking for two main insights: your weakness and the steps you’re taking to improve. You shouldn’t list one of those without the other. As you answer, provide a specific example of how you are improving.

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Other ways you could be asked

Listen for other ways a hiring manager may ask to learn about your greatest weakness. These questions are worded a little differently and could sound like, “What would you change about yourself if you could?” or, “What would your previous manager say you have trouble with?”

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Choosing your weaknesses

While it’s true that everyone has flaws, you should strategically choose which flaws to share in an interview. You’ll want to choose something related to the job you’re applying for, but not one that would prevent you from performing the job’s basic responsibilities. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service representative role, it’s best not to mention that you get uncomfortable when talking with people. Instead, focus on a weakness that doesn’t disqualify you from the job and that you are currently working towards improving.

Because you make be asked about two or three weaknesses—not only your single greatness weakness—it’s a good idea to think about several examples when preparing for your interview.

Related: Interview Question: What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?

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Skill-based answer (with example)

Choosing a skill-based weakness is a great option because you can take concrete steps to develop that particular skill, such as taking a course or finding an opportunity at work to improve in this area. You should customize your weakness to the job you’re applying for. If you’re interviewing for a job that requires an in-depth knowledge of a certain computer program, you should avoid saying that you’ve never used that program. Here’s an example:

“I learned how to use the basic functions of Microsoft Excel at a young age, but as I grow in my career, I’ve discovered the importance of expanding that knowledge. I would love to be able to create more complex spreadsheets and formulas, so I started taking online courses and have already been able to navigate Excel more efficiently. At my previous job, I even volunteered to create a detailed spreadsheet for a budget report, which was highly praised by management.”

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Character-based answer (with example)

You can also talk about a character trait weakness. However, avoid an example that gives the impression you’re unable to collaborate with coworkers or accept constructive criticism. You still want to paint a picture that you’ll be a positive, productive employee who can work well with a team. Here’s an example:

“I’m very goal-oriented and work hard to accomplish tasks, so if I’m assigned a new task that I can complete quickly, I jump from my current project to the new project. But I’ve discovered that switching gears too many times throughout the day prevents me from doing my best work on projects where longer focus is required. Now, I’m working on prioritizing new assignments and emails, along with setting time aside each day to work on specific, long-term projects. I’ve already become more efficient and have been able to manage my time more effectively.”

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Helpful tips to remember

  • Stay positive. Even though the hiring manager is asking about your greatest weakness, respond with an optimistic tone. Shine a light on how you’re able to develop your talents and grow your skill set—highly desirable traits in an employee.
  • Be prepared. It’s a good idea to be ready to answer this question. When you have an original and thoughtful answer, you show the hiring manager that you’re taking the interview and your career seriously.
  • Answer truthfully. A sincere response shows that you value honesty. It’s a signal that you will build trust in the workplace and develop strong professional relationships.
  • Include specific details. An unconvincing answer is most likely a short, vague answer. Dive deep into your experiences to describe how you’ve overcome an obstacle or challenging situation. You’ll illustrate your motivation and commitment to achieve professional growth goals.

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