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So you've submitted your resume and made a lasting impression during the phone screen. Now it's time to win over the hiring manager during the interview.
If you're a good candidate, you've researched the company and read the job description. The only thing left to do is to prepare for common interview questions. The most notorious being: "What is your greatest weakness?"
You don't want to respond with a cliche like "I work too hard" or "I don't have any weaknesses." These can come across as scripted, insincere, or that you lack self-awareness.
Bad answers cast doubt on your ability to do the job. For example, if you're applying for a project manager job, you won't get hired if you say you aren't good at project management.
Talking about things you don't excel at is difficult. You're doing a good thing by researching your answer to this question ahead of time.
In this article, we've cultivated some great answers to "What is your greatest weakness?" along with some tips and mistakes you'll want to avoid.
Why employers ask the greatest weakness question
This question is a great opportunity to stand out from other job seekers.
The key to answering it well is to acknowledge that you have flaws. Hiring managers want to assess your self-awareness and ability to learn from challenges.
An authentic answer shows you're capable of being honest about what you need to do to grow as a person. It shows your desire to improve, as well as your likelihood of becoming a valued team member.
Keep in mind that hiring managers want to understand two things. First, the candidate's weakness and second, the steps they're taking to improve.
Don't highlight your weakness without providing an example of how you mitigate it.
How to answer "What is your greatest weakness?"
- Choose a good weakness that won't prevent you from succeeding in the role
- Be honest, choose a real weakness
- Show how you've worked to improve upon your weakness or learn a new skill to combat the issue
- Show self-awareness
- Don't be arrogant, but don't underestimate yourself
1. Choose a good weakness that won't prevent you from succeeding in the role
There are several ways to approach this tricky question. But it's best to start with what the interviewer wants to know.
Interviewers ask, "What is your greatest weakness?" to understand whether you:
- Have self-awareness
- Can be open and honest about your shortcomings
- Pursue opportunities for self-improvement to combat weaknesses
Your answer should show how you used a weakness as motivation to learn or grow. The interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect, everyone has weaknesses.
You might mention a skill that isn't critical to the job, a skill you've improved, or turn a negative into a positive.
While the question is about your biggest weakness, frame your answer in a positive light. You want to highlight how you learned a new skill or ability that makes you a good employee.
Option 1: Discuss a non-essential skill
One option is to think about the skills required for the position you're applying for. Then come up with a real weakness that isn't essential to the role.
For example, if you're applying for a software engineer job, you might share you aren't great on sales calls. In this case, it'd be critical to emphasize your ability to develop robust software.
If you're applying for a content marketer position, you might use the following answer:
Sample answer:"By nature, I'm not great with numbers. As a content marketer, I can focus most of my time on the creative process of writing. I've begun to understand the value of metrics. So I'm teaching myself Google Analytics and SEO. I've found when you have the context behind the numbers, they can be quite helpful."
Why it works: This response features a weakness that isn't critical to the role. Then the candidate outlines how they are working to address it.
Option 2: Mention skills you have improved
Another option is to mention a genuine weakness you've overcome. Or one that you're working on overcoming. This shows the hiring manager that you're committed to development.
If you choose this approach, talk about where you started. Then outline the steps you took to improve and how you've progressed.
Avoid weaknesses that are essential to the position. You don't want to make the interviewer question your ability to do the job.
Sample answer: "One area I used to struggle with was public speaking. As a product manager, I need to be able to rely on my soft skills to get things done. A big part of the job is being comfortable communicating in front of large groups. I came into product through software engineering. This meant I had great hard skills. But I didn't have a lot of experience presenting to senior managers. To combat this, I took an online course in communication. I also put my hand up to work with senior management whenever possible. Now when I join these meetings, I'm comfortable and more effective in my communication."
Why it works: This response works well because the candidate has shown how they improved the skills needed to do role.
Option 3: Turning a negative into a positive
You can also turn a weakness into a strength. For example, if you're impatient, you can turn it into a positive. e.g. you're a candidate who gets things done on time. If you're meticulous and need to check everything. You'd talk about how this makes you more accurate.
A good answer highlights you're mindful of the weakness, and capable of preventing it from hindering productivity.
Sample answer: "I have a strong attention to detail. This can turn into a tendency for perfectionism, which makes time management difficult. In the past, I've found that this is my greatest strength and greatest weakness. It ensures that my work is high quality. But it also means I need to communicate the worst case scenario. Not what I can get done if everything goes well. I've learned to overestimate how long things will take. This prevents me from overpromising and underdelivering."
Why it works: The candidate has shown the interviewer how they turned a true weakness into a strength.
Option 4: Character-based answer
You can also talk about a character trait weakness. But avoid examples that give the impression you can't take on feedback. You want to paint a picture that you're a positive, productive person who can work well with a team.
Sample answer: "I'm very goal-oriented, work hard to complete tasks, but I tend to multitask. I've discovered that switching activities prevents me from doing my best work. Particularly when a project requires longer periods of focus. Now, I'm working on monotasking and setting aside time each day to work on specific, long-term projects."
Why it works: The candidate highlighted they often multitask. Multitasking reduces performance. Then they outlined what they're doing to fix the issue.
2. Be honest, choose a real weakness
Everyone has flaws. But be strategic about which flaws you share in the interview. Be honest and choose a real weakness. Ideally, a weakness that relates to the job you're applying for. But not one that prevents you from doing the job.
Imagine you're applying for a customer success role. If you mention you don't like talking to customers, you're unlikely to get hired. If this is the case, you should be asking yourself why you're applying in the first place. Instead, focus on a weakness that you're working to improve.
The interviewer may ask about more than one weakness. So it's a good idea to have several examples prepared.
If you're struggling, think about the people you look up to. What character traits do they have that you don't? And what work do you need to do to develop them?
Providing an example of what you're missing and what you're doing about it shows the interviewer:
- Your ability to identify and mitigate issues
- Your ability to find solutions to problems, which makes you an immediate resource to any team
- Your self-awareness and ability to take on feedback
Acknowledging you have a weakness is the first step to fixing it. But, you're going to need to look outside yourself to improve or fix it.
More often than not, you're going to need to look outside yourself to improve a weakness.
If you're still struggling, review our list of common weaknesses below.
3. Show how you've worked to improve upon your weakness or learn a new skill to combat the issue
Hiring managers don't expect you to overcome your weaknesses overnight. Everyone has things they need to improve. Think of it this way – if you've dedicated six months to improving your public speaking skills, you're a lot better than you were. But that doesn't mean you can stop practicing and maintain your progress. It's an ongoing process that you work on.
4. Show self-awareness
Humanizing yourself in the interview allows the interviewer to connect with you. If you're an introvert and prefer to work alone, this is a relatable weakness for a lot of people.
It shows you understand improvement comes from stepping outside your comfort zone. You might want to talk about how you've leaned on your manager or colleagues to help you improve. And that you've done the same for them.
5. Don't be arrogant, but don't underestimate yourself
The most important thing you can do when answering "What is your greatest weakness?" is to be confident is your answer. There's no need to feel embarrassed about something you're not good at. As long as you're working to get better at it, or have found ways to overcome it!
Confidence comes from practice. So practice your answers aloud before your interview.
List of weaknesses and example answers
It's hard to answer "What is your greatest weakness?" Particularly when you expect to be discussing what makes you the best candidate.
Always frame your weakness in a positive light. You can do this by providing context about how you're working to improve or mitigate it.
A good answer stems for identifying weaknesses ahead of time. Below are a few examples of the best weaknesses to mention. We've also included a sample answer so you can craft your own.
Remember to explain how you're working to overcome any shortcomings.
1. I can be too focused on details
Being detail-oriented can be a good thing. If it causes you to spend too much time on minutiae, it can also be a weakness.
Be sure to outline how you're working on seeing the bigger picture. While employers might not love that you can get caught up on the finer points, employees who produce high quality work are always valued.
Example answer: "My greatest weakness is that I focus too much on the details without thinking about what we are trying to achieve. This can lead to me producing high quality work that doesn't actually solve the problem. I've been working on checking in with myself, my team, and my manager to ensure that I'm focused the right things. That way I can ensure quality without driving too deep into things that don't matter."
2. I can be impatient
Being impatient about results can be good. But it can also introduce unnecessary stress for you and your colleagues. With that said, employers do value workers who strive to hit deadlines and keep projects on track.
If you're using this as a weakness in a job interview, focus your answer on how you complete work on time. You might also want to highlight a passion for improving processes.
Example answer: "I don't have much patience when working with a team. I'm self-sufficient, so I struggle when I need to rely on others to complete work. That's why I tend to pursue roles where I can work independently. Yet, as I get older I'm becoming aware of the value of collaborating with a team. I'm learning to how to trust my coworkers and ask for help when necessary."
3. I can have a hard time letting go of a project
When you've invest time and effort into something, it's easy to feel jaded when it's over or when you pass it off to someone else. There's always things you could improve and it's easy to over-criticize your own work.
At the same time, caring about your work is what makes you do good work. If this is your weakness, talk about how you're striving to get better at giving up control.
Example answer: "My greatest weakness is that I tend to struggle to let go out a project. I'm my own biggest critic and can always find something that could be better. That's why I'm working on giving myself self-imposed deadlines to complete things. I'm also starting to realize that giving up a project isn't a failure and that it could be because my time is better spent elsewhere."
4. I'm not always organized
Plenty of people struggle with organization. This is a good weakness because it's relatable and fixable. Outline how your disorganization hasn't interfered with your ability to do your job in the past. But acknowledge that it is making you less efficient.
Example answer: "I struggle with organization. While I've always received great performance reviews, I've noticed it lowers my productivity. Over time, I've become more organized. And I've seen it improve my productivity levels so it's something I continue to work on."
5. I have trouble saying "no"
Balancing your own work and helping your colleagues is hard. From an employer's perspective, someone who helps their team is a valuable asset. But it can also lead to burnout if you don't know your limits and ends up forgoing your work to help a colleague.
If you're always saying "yes", talk about how you're working on setting more realistic expectations.
Example answer: "I often have trouble saying 'no' to requests and end up taking on more than I can handle. This has led to burnout and unneeded stress in the past. That's why I'm working on setting better boundaries with my colleagues. I also started using a project management tool to help me visualize whether I can take on more work."
6. I struggle with delegation
Most people struggle with delegation to some level but it is an essential part of management. This often stems from the fact that people don't know which tasks to delegate.
It's best to delegate tasks you are familiar with. This can be difficult as you feel you can do it better yourself. If this is your weakness, emphasize how you're working to delegate more while not abdicating responsibility.
Example answer: "I find it difficult to delegate to my team when I feel like I can do the task better myself. But, when I became a manger, it became clear that I needed to learn to delegate. I read High Output Management by Andy Grove and it gave me a good framework for what tasks to delegate. It also taught me that I need to monitor the task even when I delegate it. This dramatically improved my ability to delegate effectively."
7. I lack experience in...
Even the best candidate has areas they need to improve. It could be something specific like learning a new programming language, or more generic soft skills.
Whatever you need to improve, showing that you're aware of it is great. It shows that you're self-aware and ready to learn new things.
But remember to avoid highlighting things that are essential to the role.
A few common areas people need more experience in are:
- Verbal communication
- Data analytics
- Providing feedback
- Specific programs (i.e. "I would like to improve my Figma skills.")
8. I can lack confidence and be timid
A lack of confidence, particularly among entry-level employees, is common. While it's logical to lack confidence in areas you don't have experience in, it can also cause problems. For example, you might feel unqualified to provide feedback at an important meeting when your idea could have helped.
A certain level of confidence is essential. If this is your weakness, emphasize that you understand of the value you provide. Then outline how you've been working to be more confident.
Example answer: "I often lack confidence when providing feedback to my colleagues or manager. I think it's out of fear that I could hurt their feelings or that they don't value me because of my lack of experience. But, I know that feedback can be helpful. Even kind. It's about how you deliver it. I've been reading Radical Candor by Kim Scott to learn to provide better feedback."
9. I can be blunt
Being honest is a great asset, but it can also hinder you from working with some personalities at work. If this is your weakness, you need to show that you recognize when your personality interferes with your ability to do your job. Then you'll want to outline how you solve that.
Explain how your blunt nature allows you to be successful in certain situations. Then, emphasize that you understand bluntness can come across as unkind. Finally, provide examples of how you've attempted to solve this issue in the past.
Example answer: "I'm blunt by nature. This has helped me over the years. It means I can get things done and people often appreciate my honesty. But, I've realized this only works when my team knows that I value them as human beings not cogs in a machine. To combat this, I've worked hard to develop strong personal connections with my team. I've also taken courses online to learn how to manage remote teams."
10. I don't like public speaking
A fear of public speaking is common. Particularly among introverted people. Even if it isn't essential to your role, it's a useful skill to have. One that you'll need as you get promoted.
A desire to improve also shows you can self-identify weaknesses. Without waiting for your manager to suggest them to you. This demonstrates ambition, self-awareness, and professional maturity.
Example answer: "Public speaking makes me nervous. I don't need to do much public speaking as a product designer. But I still feel that it's an important skill–especially if I want to move into a design management position. To combat this, I've been working with a public speaking coach and trying to speak up at each team meeting. This has helped me get better at speaking in public and improved my team's output."
11. I have trouble asking for help
Asking for help is a foundational skill. It's important when you are lacking expertise, burnt out, or unable to handle your workload.
Knowing when and how to ask for help shows strong self-awareness and helps your team stay on track. While a strong work ethic is commendable, you still need to know when you need a helping hand.
If you've struggled to ask for help in the past, explain why you know it's beneficial to reach out. Then outline how you've been trying to improve.
Example answer: "I pride myself on my ability to work diligently and independently, but this has meant I've been bad at asking for help when I need it. I've learned that it's much better for me and the business if I reach out before I burn out. I also know that my team has valuable insights that could make my work better. While I'm still working on it, I've been able to leverage my team more which has improved the quality of my work."
12. I struggle to understand data
Data analysis is a valuable skill in today's economy. But it's not something that everyone can pick up easily. Yet, it's becoming part of every job. Even jobs that rely on soft skills like sales or marketing.
If you know you have a weakness in data analytics, talk about how you're working on it. If you haven't been working on it, talk about how you've leveraged a colleague's expertise in the past.
Example answer: "I'm not great with numbers and data analysis still confuses me a lot. I recognize this is a significant weakness. It stops me from being able to understand how my work is impacting the business. In my last role, I set up monthly meetings with a data analyst on our team to discuss how my work was performing. I've also been working on getting a Google Analytics certificate. I hope this will help me start to analyze data related to my work myself. I'm definitely much more comfortable analyzing data than I have been in the past, but I still have a long way to go."
13. I clash with certain personalities
Most people have trouble working with people who have different personalities to themself. Being a good teammate means having a strong awareness of how you work with others. And it often means adjusting your approach to make things gel.
Explain the personality types you have trouble working with, and why you think you do. Then discuss how you've adjusted your work style to better accommodate people.
Example answer: "I find it difficult to work with people who are emotional. I understand that a diverse workforce produces better products. But I still tend to clash with emotional colleagues. To combat this, I've made an effort to try to work with colleagues who I am uncomfortable with. As I learn more about them, I understand their motivations and communication style, and can better collaborate with them."
14. I can be indecisive and struggle with ambiguity
Many jobs need you to be comfortable with defining your own workload. The upside of this is you have more control over what you do day-to-day. The downside is that you need to be thoughtful about what you choose to work on.
Explain how you've found success by working with your manager to define clearer objectives. Or that you're getting more comfortable with ambiguity over time.
Example answer: "In my last position as a growth manager at a startup, I found that my manager didn't give me any instructions. Before this role, I worked at a company that had very well-defined goals. And my manager gave very specific instructions about how to achieve them. Initially, I found this new way of working hard as it was up to me to decide what to do. but, I worked with my manager to define goals for a few quarters before I got comfortable enough to develop my own. Doing this helped me learn how to be more decisive and comfortable with ambiguity."
15. I struggle with work-life balance
Finding work-life balance is an important part of staying productive at work. While it's great to have a strong work ethic and enjoy spending time at work, it's also a good idea to focus on rest.
Explain how you balance work and life and how you've seen your work improve because of those efforts.
Example answer: "I love my work and I'm ambitious. This leads to difficulties with work-life balance. I've seen how this can have a negative impact on my ability to focus if I let work dominate too much of my life. As a result, I've made an effort to focus on building a strict schedule between work and life, and completely turn off my phone and computer on Sundays. I've found that being completely off allows me to get more work done when I start work on Mondays."
Tips for giving the best answer to "What is your greatest weakness?"
Prepare before the interview process: This is a common interview question so it's best to prepare your response ahead of time.
Be honest: Your answer must be authentic and tailored to your circumstances. Of all the question you're likely to get in a job interview, this isn't one where you want to come across as disingenuous.
Turn a negative into a positive: Frame your response in a positive light so whatever you portrayed as a weakness is positioned as a learning experience or accomplishment.
Include specific details: Bad answers tend to be short and vague. Dive deep into your experiences to describe how you've overcome an obstacle or challenging situation. This will illustrate your motivation and commitment to achieving your professional goals.
Mistakes to avoid when answering "What is your greatest weakness?"
Focusing on your weakness: There is a right way and wrong way to talk about your weaknesses or what you need to improve. Remember, you don't want to come across as not qualified.
Saying you have no weakness: Everyone has weaknesses. It's important to not come across as arrogant or dishonest by claiming you don't.
Being negative: Don't blame a previous job or manager for your weakness. Remember to focus on yourself when answering this job interview question.
Possible follow-up questions
- What is your greatest strength?
- Describe your work ethic
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you the best person for this job?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake
- Do you have any questions for me? Read our guide on best questions to ask in an interview.
- What can you contribute to this company? This question is like "Why do you want to work here?" and will only be asked as a follow-up if you weren't able to clearly articulate your value in your answer.
- Any number of behavioral interview questions. Be sure to use the STAR method when answering.
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