Job Interview Tips

How to Answer the “What’s Your Biggest Weakness?” Question in Interviews

Written by Peter Jones

People typically have a really hard time answering the “what is your biggest weakness?” question. To answer this question goes against all of the self-promotion people do when looking for a job. How can I portray myself as the ideal candidate and then start talking about the ways in which I’m not ideal?

While this may seem like a daunting question, it can actually be used as an opportunity to demonstrate your positive qualities. As it turns out, this is an important question to showcase your ability to self-reflect and attitude towards growth—and one that most interviewees botch. Keep in mind that, first of all, there is no one right answer (though honesty usually wins out). Here are a few tips on how to choose and present your weaknesses in a way that will impress your interviewer.

Be Honest

Confidence is important, but so is honesty. When interviewers ask about your biggest weaknesses, they are really giving you an opportunity to show your self-awareness and humility. Hiring managers want to see your greatest strengths and accomplishments, but also a healthy dose of that little bit of honesty and willingness to confront one’s genuine weaknesses.

You know you have weaknesses. We all do. Thus, the key to answering this question is to be honest about them and turn them to your advantage. Identify a genuine weakness that you’re actively working to improve.

The key to answering this question well is to avoid choosing a non-flaw (i.e. “I’m too much of a perfectionist”… hiring managers see right through this) or avoiding the question altogether. Think along the lines of: “At first glance, I know I’m not the candidate you’ve envisioned, but…” 

That sort of opening salvo of honesty will certainly grab a hiring manager’s attention, and it will give you a chance to frame your candidacy in the best possible light (i.e. “But I am uniquely qualified because….”). However, it is important to discuss your weaknesses in a strategic and accurate way. 

List of Example Weaknesses:

If you’re unsure what work-related weaknesses are appropriate to discuss, here is a list of some good weaknesses to mention in an interview:

  • Fear of public speaking or presentations
  • Lacking experience (best to mention for entry positions or career transitions)
  • Lacking confidence
  • Have trouble staying organized
  • Poor writing skills
  • Don’t work well with certain personalities
  • Not enough/excess multi-tasking
  • Unfamiliar or need more experience with a software/programming language
  • Not being able to say no
  • Being too competitive
  • Difficulty maintaining work-life balance
  • Poor time management
  • Taking on too much responsibility or difficulty delegating tasks to others

Note that if any of these traits are vital for your position (for example, being a poor teamplayer for a retail position), it is better to pick another weakness to discuss during your interview. Afterall, you don’t want to give a weakness that will completely disqualify you for the job. 

Double and triple check your job description before deciding which weakness you want to talk about for your interview. 

Spin it as a Growth Experience

When you are discussing your weaknesses for job interviews, try to approach this question as a story about you and your growth experience. 

Use this question as an opportunity to show how you have faced a particularly large obstacle in the past, and how you learned and grew from that experience. This demonstrates that you have the resilience to overcome obstacles and grow from your experiences. Reframe the question into showing how you deal with your flaws productively, rather than trying to pick a non-flaw that avoids the heart of this question. 

For instance, many people are afraid of presentations and public speaking. If you are shy, you could say that you are working on building your confidence in order to be better able to network or public speaking. 

On the other hand, if you’re not good at working on a team, you could say that you’re working on developing your communication skills so that you can better collaborate with others. 

By framing your weaknesses as something that you are actively working on, you can show that you’re self-aware and eager to learn and grow. This can be a good way to answer the tough interview question while still putting your best foot forward.

Explain That You Are Always Fine-Tuning

Everyone has a weakness. Remember that admitting your inadequacies doesn’t show that you’re inadequate. When interviewers ask about your biggest weakness, they are trying to get a sense of how you view yourself and whether you are able to self-reflect and improve. 

By showing up prepared with a thoughtful answer, you have created an opportunity to impress your interviewer with your story and stand out from the other candidates. 

A well-prepared answer not only shows that you are self-aware, it demonstrates that you take the time to reflect that in your narrative. Most importantly, you are showing that you’re constantly trying to improve. That growth mindset is the kind of quality that any employer would be very keen to have in an employee.

So before answering the question “what is your biggest weakness?”, prepare thoroughly and don’t go into an interview with a generic response. Come up with something that can segue into your story of overcoming obstacles, and keep it work related. Show you’re human, but hardworking, and you’ll never be on the wrong end of this ubiquitous interview question again.

No matter how experienced you are in the workplace, going to interviews can be daunting. Ace your next interview with TheJobNetwork. With expert career search tips and thousands of jobs in every industry, TheJobNetwork has tools and resources to help you feel confident in your job search. 

About the author

Peter Jones