“What’s Your Biggest Weakness?” The Best Way to Answer This Tough Interview Question

It’s the interview question every job seeker dreads: What is your biggest weakness?

It’s the one question that nobody likes — I mean, the last thing you want to do is tell an interviewer about your shortcomings and give them a reason to reject you right?! 

And no, you can’t pretend that you have no weaknesses. We’re all human and your interviewer is likely to either think you have a major ego or no self-awareness if “I’m flawless” is your answer.

The “biggest weakness” question may seem like an unfair way for a tough interviewer to put you on the spot and watch you squirm but it’s actually a fantastic interview tool. Not only does it give the interviewer a chance to understand what makes you, you, but by learning how to answer this tricky interview question effectively you will also greatly increase your own self-awareness. And, with a clear perception of your personality, including your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation and emotions, you’ll gain a new level of confidence that could get you that one step closer to a job offer.

Ultimately, most employers want to hire someone who’s realistic about their skill set. If you’re the right person, they’ll typically be prepared to help you develop in areas where you feel you need help.

The Worst Way to Answer the “biggest weakness question 

Some “experts” will tell you to try and turn a strength into a “weakness,” to make yourself look good. That advice is best ignored.

Think about it. Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers “being a perfectionist” or “working too much.” (Hint: way too often!) These are stock standard “biggest weakness” answers that try to turn a positive to a negative.

Yes, we understand that it can be really tough talking about the less impressive parts of your skill set and personality but it’s important. Equally, it’s important not to lie or gloss over your weaknesses. Remember, being a professional at work doesn’t mean you are perfect 100% of the time. It’s about how you carry yourself and learn from your mistakes. (BTW, here’s a little secret: It’s more about how you answer rather than your actual answer).

How to Actually Talk About Your Biggest Weakness in an Interview

In asking this question, an interviewer wants to find out three things: 

  • How self-aware you are
  • How honest you are
  • Your ideas about self-improvement

Here’s one way that you could think about answering the “biggest weakness” question: First, think about something that isn’t your strong suit but won’t overtly affect your ability to do the job at hand. For example, if the job requires you to work something to completion, you could say that delegating to others is a weakness because it’s not a major part of the role you’re discussing. Or, if you’re not required to make presentations as part of the job your interviewing for, then public speaking could be the weakness you choose to highlight.

Alternatively, you could say something like, “Well, in the past I’d say it was… but here’s how I’m working to improve it.” Show how you’ve taken steps to overcome this “weakness”, or how you’ve worked hard to improve, and mention that you’re still working at becoming even better.

Your Biggest Weakness Doesn’t Have to Directly Relate to the Job

Here’s another example: If you’re interviewing for a Software Designer role and the interviewer asked, “What’s your biggest weakness?” You could answer:

“I would say my greatest weakness is my writing skills. I’ve always been a technical, math person and I like crunching numbers. But when it comes to words I get tongue-tied and forget the rules. I’ve started using Grammar apps to make sure my emails are correct. The app gives the activity a tech feel, which makes the whole thing more comfortable for me as well. “

The above response demonstrates self-awareness, honesty and a desire for self-improvement. Writing skills is not a core criteria that would impact your ability to write code.

Think an interviewer will remember that answer? We guarantee it. 

The above example can help you understand the process and give you some ideas. Your answer though should be borne out of your reflection on your real weaknesses and experiences gleaned from any feedback you’ve received from others. Give an honest and constructive answer. And remember, you’re only human.

Work on Your Weaknesses

If you know you have a weakness don’t just leave it! Employers love to know that you are improving and learning all the time. There are lots of ways to learn important skills and hone weaknesses. An employer will always be impressed to see that you are taking steps to be a better person. They don’t want to hear that you have done nothing about your biggest weakness for years.

Don’t Let This Question Stop You From Achieving Your Dreams

So, when it comes to the question “What is your greatest weakness,” don’t hate the player or the game.

Instead, embrace it. Ponder it. Learn from it. And use it to make yourself better. It’s a toughie but not insurmountable.

Just focus on being self-aware, honest and dedicated to improvement. If you’ve got these three qualities, your weakness won’t ruin your chances of landing the job.

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