“What would you say is your greatest weakness?” The weakness question. Simultaneously the most obvious question you can expect in an interview, and the most dangerous. Answer too honestly, and your potential future boss may think that you have a fatal character flaw that is incompatible with their company. Answer too blithely, and you risk showing disrespect to the interviewer and the question. Indeed, coming up with good interview answers for weaknesses can be a real challenge.
There’s a balance here, but an achievable one, and there are ways to answer this question with honesty and grace. Here are good interview answers for weaknesses.
1. Answer the Weakness as a Strength
One of the most basic techniques to answer this question is to answer it as if you are talking about a strength. This means you respond with, “I can’t let go of something until it is completed” or “I get so focused on a project I have a hard time concentrating on anything else.” There are plenty of examples of this answer: For example, in a 2008 Presidential debate, then-Senator Hillary Clinton answered this question by saying “I get impatient,” then discussed all the things she wanted to do for the American people.
2. Make it Fixable
When it comes to answering this question, make sure that you are answering with a weakness that is addressable. Make sure that you describe something fixable. Don’t give an abstract answer that implies longevity, like, “I’ve had an anger problem, and I have all my life!” Instead, describe something that you either have fixed or are working on fixing. Remember, your interviewers aren’t looking for perfection. They prefer someone humble, able to recognize their flaws, and is working towards improving them.
3. Pivot to Empathy
Empathy is something that every hiring manager wants to see in their employees. That’s how you can use this opportunity to show that your weakness isn’t really a weakness, but a chance to actually empathize with others. For example, talk about how you have some personality flaws like shyness or lack of confidence. From there, pivot to how that weakness actually helps you in your job. You can say that it helps you because you can empathize with people who have this trait, identify with them, and thus have the potential to serve them better in the role you are interviewing for.
4. Go Small
That same clip from earlier that featured Presidential candidates discussing their weaknesses also featured then-Senator Obama giving a candid answer: He was terrible at keeping track of paper, and his desk was a mess. In response, the President said, he had his staff alter how they gave him paper and information. This answer is notable for a few reasons. First, it is candid. Second, it is honest. Third, it showed how the future President managed his weakness, thus showing self-awareness and growth potential.
5. Hard Skills
Mentioning a weakness in a hard skill is another approach, but there’s a risk. It wouldn’t be a comprehensive list of good interview answers for weaknesses without it. You can say something like “math,” and that answer can work. However, that answer comes with a risk: If it is not related to the job, it can look like you are ducking the question. If it is related too closely to the job, you risk appearing bad at a core occupational function. This, clearly, is the last thing you want to do in a job interview. As such, you have to make sure that you properly calibrate your answer.
6. Soft Skills
A soft skill is an interpersonal skill, such as temperament, relationship building, patience, and more. Giving a soft skill – but putting a positive spin on it – is always a viable option. For example, a common answer to this question is noting that you have delegation challenges. You can say, “Sometimes, I struggle with delegation. It’s become a challenge for me as I continue my career, and something I know I need to work on. I have done so by….”
7. Lacking Experience
A candid way of addressing a weakness is by discussing your lack of experience in something. The lack of experience could be tied to many things, including your age, a career change, a lack of opportunity, or more. Remember, if you lack experience in an area, your prospective employer is likely already aware of this issue. As such, discussing your lack of experience gives you a great chance to overcome this issue. You can bring it out into the open and note how you will address it, including by engaging in extra professional development, spending more time in the office, etc.
8. Use Examples
Answers are always real and effective if they involve a brief story. Use a real-life example of an experience you had to highlight this weakness. This will make your answer more memorable. Of course, you don’t want to make your weakness the memorable part. Instead, use a story to highlight the personal growth you experienced as a result of your active efforts to improve. Discuss specific steps you took – and still take – to address this weakness.
9. Highlight Resource Collection
An employer will always look for someone who is dedicated, interested in accomplishing more, and a self-starter. This is one of the many reasons you always pivot your answer to this question to a story about success. However, you should also fold in specific items you took that led to that success. Discuss what resources you collected, including websites, online courses, or training classes, to improve. This creates the impression that you are a self-starter who wants to do better and improve.
10. Highlight Personal Growth
Your answers to the vast majority of your questions will obviously touch upon your professional skills and development. That being said, your interviewers aren’t just evaluating your professional skills: They are evaluating you, as a person. As such, make sure to make the professional personal. Discuss the specific ways in which your professional development and addressing weaknesses helped your personal life as well. For example, if you mentioned patience as a weakness that you addressed, you could discuss how becoming more patient made you a better parent.
Today we’ve looked at 10 good interview answers for weaknesses. Make sure to study these thoroughly and use them to ace your next interview.