It’s one of the most common interview questions, but also one of most dreaded. We’re talking about: ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ Some hard-hitting interviewers will take it even further and ask for 3 examples. Though there’s been a recent trend to stop asking this question on the basis that no one likes it or answers it honestly, it’s still a staple for many interviewers. There’s a good chance you’ll have to answer it at some point throughout your career, so it’s a good idea to have an answer prepared.
While identifying your worst traits probably won’t be the most fun part of your interview, there are ways to spin interview questions about weaknesses to your advantage. Below are our pro tips to talk about your biggest weaknesses in a productive, meaningful way.
don’t deny you have any weaknesses or freeze up
When an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, above all they’re looking for self-awareness. They want to know if you’re able to see yourself clearly and pinpoint areas to improve. They’re not looking for perfection (or at least, they shouldn’t be!) Denying you have any areas to improve indicates you lack self-awareness or haven’t prepared for an incredibly common interview question. That’s why it’s important to think about how you’ll frame your weaknesses long before you’re sitting in an interview chair. Try to identify 3 potential weaknesses, so you have options when the time comes (so you can tailor your answer to connect with the interviewer) and aren’t left drawing a blank.
don’t be too candid
There’s a fine line between an area to improve and a professional deal breaker. While being honest with yourself is important, being too honest can set off alarm bells. Consider how the hiring manager will interpret your weakness. For instance, if you identify punctuality as your weakness, a hiring manager might assume you have a bad habit of being late to everything. That’s a big red flag for a potential employer, and probably not the kind of weakness you want to draw their attention to.
choose something that can be improved
The key to talking about your weaknesses in an interview setting is to choose a weakness that can be improved with time and effort. For instance, if you’ve identified establishing a healthy work-life balance as one of your weaknesses, you can talk about how you’re making an effort to use your lunch break to take a walk and get out of the office, or committing to leave the office at 5pm at least twice a week to spend more time with your kids. Talking about the steps you’re taking to improve shows growth and adaptability.
be brief about your greatest weakness
Don’t spend 5 minutes waxing poetic about your weaknesses. You’re aiming for self-awareness not oversharing. Here’s a tried-and-true format to use:
- Identify the area of weakness.
- Provide a concrete example of how this impacted your work.
- Explain the steps you’re taking to improve.
This third and final section is where you’ll spend most of your time. Try to keep your entire answer within the 30-second to a minute range.
avoid cliché answers like ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I take on too much responsibility’
We guarantee you every hiring manager and recruiter under the sun has heard these type of answers on a daily basis for the duration of their career. While it can be tempting to choose a weakness that’s really a strength in disguise, it won’t come across as authentic. Recruiters are wise to this trick. Being vulnerable and fessing up to a real flaw takes courage. And that’s a trait most hiring managers will appreciate.
be specific and use examples
Once you’ve identified your weakness, brainstorm real-life examples. If you throw out ‘time-management’ as your weakness and leave it at that, the hiring manager will be left to make assumptions about what that means. It sounds like you aren't able to finish your work on time, even if that isn't what you meant! Identifying an example paints a picture and allows you to control the narrative. For instance, try saying “I sometime struggle with managing my time. For example, I found myself accepting every project that came my way, even when I knew the timeline given was not realistic for my schedule. I’m trying to be more selective about the projects I agree to take on, and upfront with my coworkers about how long it will take to complete deliverables.”
don’t stress yourself out
Being vulnerable is uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons that talking about weaknesses is one of the most dreaded interview questions. However there’s a good chance you’re overthinking this question way more than your interviewer will! We tend to be our own worst critics and dig deeper into our faults than any outsider ever will. Be self-aware and identify ways you’re improving on your weaknesses, and everything will be fine, we promise!
having trouble pinpointing your weaknesses?
Here are some common weak areas to evaluate yourself on. Just remember to do a little soul searching and determine how they apply to your career! It’s important that you come up with specific examples and ways you’re improving. If you can’t identify an example or how you’re taking steps to grow, it’s probably not the right weakness to bring up in an interview!