It can be hard to answer the question, “What is your greatest weakness?”—especially when you expect to be discussing the skills, talents and capabilities that make you the strongest candidate for the job.
Framing your weaknesses positively can be challenging, but when you combine self-awareness with an action plan, you can quickly stand apart from other job applicants.
The key to preparing for this question is to identify weaknesses that still communicate strength. This will show the interviewer you’re introspective enough to know your areas of opportunity.
Example weaknesses for interviewing
Here are a few examples of the best weaknesses to mention in an interview:
1. I focus too much on the details.
Being detail-oriented is typically a good thing, but if you’re someone who tends to spend too much time on the specifics of a project, it could also be considered a weakness. By sharing that you focus too much on details, you’re showing your interviewer that you’re capable of helping the organization avoid even minor mistakes.
Be sure to explain how you’re making improvements in this area by looking at the big picture. While employers may not love the idea of having an employee who is preoccupied with the finer points, a candidate who assures quality and strives for balance can be a great asset.
Example: “My greatest weakness is that I sometimes focus too much on the details of a project and spend too much time analyzing the finer points. I’ve been striving to improve in this area by checking in with myself at regular intervals and giving myself a chance to refocusing 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 the team’s ability to meet the deadline.”
2. I have a hard time letting go of a project.
When you’ve spent a great deal of time and effort on something, it’s easy to feel apprehensive about marking it complete or passing it on to another team. There’s always room for improvement and some people tend to over-criticize their own work or attempt last-minute changes, which can threaten the timeline.
At the same time, though, last-minute reviews can help eliminate errors and make for a more refined finished product.
If this is your weakness, share how you’re striving to improve by giving yourself a deadline for all revisions and being proactive about changes, so you’re not waiting until the last minute.
Example: “My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have a hard time letting go of a project. I’m the biggest critic of my own work. I can always find something that needs to be improved or changed. To help myself improve in this area, I give myself deadlines for revisions. This helps ensure that I’m not making changes at the last minute.”
3. I have trouble saying “no.”
Helping colleagues on projects and properly managing your workload is an artful balance. From an employer’s perspective, someone who accepts all requests seems dedicated and eager—but can also be someone who doesn’t know their limits and ends up needing help or deadline extensions to finish their work.
If you’re so eager to take on new projects that you can’t bring yourself to say “no” to, share how you’re working to better self-manage by organizing your tasks and setting more realistic expectations with yourself as well as those around you.
Example: “My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have trouble saying ‘no’ to requests and end up taking on more than I can handle. In the past, this has led me to feel stressed or burnt out. To help myself improve in this area, I use a project management app so I can visualize how much work I have at any given moment and know whether or not I have the bandwidth to take on more.”
4. I get impatient when projects run beyond the deadline.
While expressing outward stress or frustration over missed deadlines can be considered a weakness, employers value workers that place importance on deadlines and strive to keep projects within the planned timeline.
If you’re using this as your job interview weakness, frame your answer to focus on how you appreciate work completed on time and ways you’re improving your helping to improve processes to get work done more efficiently.
Example: “My greatest weakness is that I get impatient when projects run past the deadline. I’m a stickler for due dates and get uncomfortable when work is not completed 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.”
5. I could use more experience in…
Each candidate has areas to improve upon in their expertise. Maybe it’s something specific like building pivot tables in Excel. Perhaps it’s a skill like math, writing or public speaking. Whatever the case, sharing something you want to improve upon shows the interviewer that you’re self-aware and like to challenge yourself. Be sure, however, that you don’t answer with a weakness that is essential to the role.
A few common areas people need experience in include:
- Verbal communication
- Written communication
- Team leadership
- Interpreting analytics
- Delegating tasks
- Providing constructive criticism
- Specific programs (i.e. “I would like to improve my PowerPoint presentation skills.”)
6. I sometimes lack confidence.
Lack of confidence is a common weakness, especially among entry-level contributors. Experiencing a lack of confidence can sometimes cause inefficiencies in your work. For example, you might feel unqualified to speak up at an important meeting when your idea could help the team to achieve a goal.
While being humble when working with others can be helpful, it is also necessary to maintain a certain amount of confidence to do your job at an optimal level.
If this is the weakness you choose to present in your interview, emphasize why you value confidence, your understanding of the value you offer, and ways you have practiced displaying confidence in the workplace (even when you might not always feel it.)
Example: “In the past, I have sometimes struggled with confidence. It has been helpful for me to keep a running document of the impact I have made on my team and at my organization to better understand why I should be confident about the skills and unique talents I bring to the table.
I have also made it a point to voice my ideas and opinions during meetings when I feel they are appropriate and will add value to the conversation. Because of this, our team ended up adopting my idea for a new financing process, which resulted in a 10% decrease in time taken to plan our annual budget.”
7. I can have trouble asking for help.
Asking for help is a necessary skill both when you are lacking expertise in a certain area and when you are feeling burned out or cannot handle your workload. Knowing when and how to ask for help shows strong self-awareness and helps the organization by getting ahead of a possible inefficiency. While having a strong work ethic and being independent are positive qualities, the business should know when to ask for help.
If you know it has been difficult to ask for help in the past, explain why you know it is beneficial and the ways you have tried to improve this skill.
Example: “Because I am independent and enjoy working quickly, it has been difficult for me to ask for help when I need it. I have learned that it is much more beneficial both for me and the business to reach out when I do not understand something or feel burned out with my workload.
I also understand that many experts around me have specific knowledge and skills that can make my work better. While I am still working on it, I have been able to produce more high-quality work as a result of getting help from those around me.”
8. It has been difficult for me to work with certain personalities.
Even the most flexible people can have trouble working with others that have certain characteristics or personality traits. Having good teamwork skills also means having a strong awareness of how you work with others and ways you can adjust your approach to better serve the organization.
If this has been a weakness of yours in the past, explain the personality types you have had trouble working with and quickly identify the reasons why. Then discuss the ways you have adjusted your communication or work style to better work towards a common goal together.
Example: “In the past, I have found it difficult to work with aggressive personality types. While I understand diversity in personalities makes a business strong, I tend to quiet my own ideas and opinions around louder colleagues.
To combat this, I have made it a point to spend more time with colleagues I feel uncomfortable working with. By learning more about them, their communication style and motivations, I am better able to collaborate with these personality types so that we both equally contribute our strengths and skills.”
9. It can be difficult for me to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
Finding work/life balance is important to maintain motivation in your job. While it is certainly honorable and shows a strong work ethic to spend your time and energy on work, it is also necessary to prioritize resting, going on vacation, spending time with your family and enjoying hobbies. Doing so can help you feel refreshed when you are at work and can increase motivation, creativity and support a positive outlook.
If this is the weakness you choose to present during your interview, explain the ways you have learned to balance life and work and how you have seen your work improve as a result. You can also explain that work/life balance is something you find important in the role you are applying for.
Before providing this as an example, you should do extensive research about the company culture. If you are interviewing for a position in which it is necessary to have your phone on and available at all times, you might not want to say you turn your phone off at night to achieve work/life balance.
Example: “Because I truly love my work and have ambitious career goals, it can be difficult for me to keep a healthy balance between work and my personal life. I have seen a negative impact on my motivation and focus when I ignore my personal needs.
As a result, I have made it a point to focus on creating space in my schedule to focus on volunteering and spending time with my family. Taking small actions like putting my phone on silent during dinnertime is helpful. When I maintain a good work/life balance, I have found my output is more qualitative, I can get more work done and I feel excited about coming to work in the morning.”
10. I have been uncomfortable working with ambiguity.
Many jobs require candidates who are comfortable individually defining tasks and working towards goals. This means they should be experienced, thoughtful and responsible with ambiguity in the workplace. While it is certainly a beneficial skill to closely follow detailed instruction, it is also necessary to be able to determine what it takes to achieve the desired outcome.
If this is the weakness you are presenting in an interview, explain the success you have found following instructions but also your career potential when finding comfort with ambiguity. You should also explain the steps you are taking to define your workday when given ambiguous tasks or goals.
Example: “In my last position as a marketing intern, I found that my supervisor gave very specific instructions regarding my responsibilities. Because I became familiar with having a strong direction, I tend to be unsure when approaching an ambiguous assignment or goal.
It is a goal of mine to become not only comfortable but successful working with ambiguity. To do so, I have created a personal framework for times when I feel overwhelmed or confused by an ambiguous task including conducting structured research and asking subject matter experts for advice. Doing so has helped me thrive when working on ambiguous tasks or when working towards less specific or defined goals.”
Use this list of weaknesses to help identify your areas for improvement, and remember to explain how you’re working to overcome your shortcomings. By presenting both the problem and the solution, you can transform your weakness into a strength.