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“What’s your Greatest Weakness?”: A Classic Interview Question

There are some questions you can expect to hear in every interview. Questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “Why do you want this job?” and “Do you have any references?” are going to be asked in almost every interview. And, like these other questions, it’s important that you prepare ahead of your interview to make sure you’re able to answer this question in the best way possible.

Why Do Employers Ask this Question?

The goal of an interview is to try to figure out if someone would be a good fit for a position, and how they rank in comparison to other people who are being considered for the same job. Employers don’t ask this question because they’re expecting a brutally honest answer from you, rather, they’re looking to see how you respond to the question. Do you have self-awareness? Are you capable of answering a difficult question gracefully? Do you have any perceived deficiencies that will impact your ability to do the job?

“I Don’t Have Any Weaknesses” and Other Answers NOT to Give

No one likes to talk about their shortcomings, especially in an interview where you are trying to present yourself as the best person for the job. Many people are tempted to say they have no weaknesses, or that their weakness is working too hard, or being a perfectionist. In other words, a weakness that really isn’t a weakness at all.

Don’t do that. When you tell an interviewer you have no weaknesses, you sound like you either have a huge ego or are completely blind to your own short comings. Of course, it’s also important that you don’t give an answer that shows that you’re not able to do the job. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a job in QA, don’t present your greatest weakness as an inability to concentrate. If you’re interviewing for a job as a writer, don’t say that your biggest weakness is your inability to accept criticism (actually, that’s a good weakness to not mention regardless of the job you’re interviewing for).

When you’re asked a question in an interview, you have to answer, but answering the question about your greatest weakness is complicated. You don’t want to sound like a suck-up, but you also don’t want to sound like an incompetent, either. So what do you say?

What you SHOULD Say

Before your next interview, take a moment to think about your greatest weakness, and consider shortcomings and challenges you’ve successfully met and are working through. Your goal should be to provide an answer that is honest but is framed properly. Framing an answer properly means that you’re providing context. When answering a question about your greatest weakness, you should acknowledge the weakness, provide an example that’s not too damaging of how this has been problematic, and talk about how you’re working to overcome the weakness. For instance, let’s say that you’re interviewing for a training position, and your greatest weakness is a fear of public speaking. One thing to mention is that you’re overcoming this weakness by joining Toastmaster International to develop public speaking skills in a supportive context.

When you’re interviewing for another job, your greatest weakness may be a lack of experience with a particular duty of the new position. In this case, you can talk about online courses and reading you’ve done to prepare for a position that requires the knowledge that you’re still developing.

If you feel your greatest weakness is a lack of patience, you could talk about how you’ve taken up meditation, gardening, or another hobby that’s helping you develop those skills.

The best way to answer the question about your greatest weakness is to show that you are humble and self-aware enough to recognize that you have a weakness and that you’re willing to work to overcome it.

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