List of Weaknesses With Examples

Two professionals face to face in office, woman in wheelchair, holding document
••• PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson / Getty Images

During job interviews, hiring managers will often ask about your weaknesses, in addition to your strengths, as a way to determine whether you are qualified for the job. How you respond will also help the interviewer understand how well you know yourself.

Weaknesses are tricky to talk about, so you need to be careful when sharing examples of yours. You don't want to knock yourself out of contention for the job because the interviewer thinks you're not qualified. You do want your answer to be honest, but as positive as possible.

Focus on steps you are taking to improve on your weaknesses and avoid mentioning skills that are important for the job.

If you think carefully about the job ahead of time and prepare an answer, you will be able to remain positive while still being honest.

Examples of Weaknesses

There are different categories of weaknesses that you can choose from when answering interview questions about your weaknesses. However, do not choose a weakness at random. Instead, make sure the weakness you select is not critical to the job, and mention in your interview the ways you plan to improve upon this weakness.

 © The Balance, 2018

Hard Skills

You might mention a hard skill as your weakness. Hard skills are job-specific abilities that are easily quantifiable. They are developed through school and other forms of training. Examples of hard skills include computer skills, finance, mathematics, and more.

If you decide to mention a hard skill, make sure it is not a skill necessary for the job. If it is a skill that is easy to learn, you might also mention that you are currently developing that skill (or that you plan to develop that skill). For example, if you say your weakness is a particular program, you might say that you are currently taking an online course on how to use the program (of course, only say this if it is true).

Some examples of hard skills you might mention when answering an interview question about your weaknesses are:

  •  Advanced mathematics
  • Creative writing
  • Financial literacy
  • Foreign languages (or one particular foreign language)
  • A particular software package
  • Spelling

Soft Skills

Soft skills are important for pretty much every job. Unlike hard skills, these are skills that are hard to quantify; they are your personality traits, your communication abilities, and your social skills. While they are important, you can pick out one soft skill to mention as a weakness. Just make sure it is not necessary for the job, and emphasize how you are working on improving that skill. Some soft skills you might mention when answering questions about your weaknesses include:

  • Creativity
  • Delegating tasks
  • Humor
  • Spontaneity (better when prepared)
  • Organization
  • Patience
  • Taking too many risks
  • Too honest

Academics

You can also refer to an academic skill or ability as a weakness. This is a particularly good idea if you are at least a few years out of school, because then the employer can evaluate you on your work experience rather than your academics.

Of course, don’t highlight an academic weakness that is directly relevant to the job. For example, if you are applying for a job as an engineer, don’t say your weakness is a particular engineering course. Some examples of weaknesses related to academics include:

  • Coursework (a particular course you struggled with)
  • Essay writing (be sure to emphasize your strength in other forms of writing)
  • Overly involved in on-campus activities (if a student or recent graduate)
  • Spending too much time on school assignments
  • Standardized tests

Interpersonal Skills

You might mention a weakness that relates to your ability to interact with others. Of course, you want to make sure you don’t come across as someone who can’t work well with coworkers. Pick one specific issue you struggle with, and then talk about how you have worked to improve on this type of interaction. Examples of interpersonal skills you might mention as weaknesses include:

  • Confrontation
  • Covering for co-workers
  • Expecting too much from colleagues
  • Expressing too much frustration with underperforming staff or colleagues
  • Presenting to large groups
  • Public speaking
  • Too critical of other people’s work
  • Too easily internalizing the problems of clients
  • Too sensitive

Work Ethic

You don’t want to say that your weakness is that you “work too hard.” This will come across as insincere. However, you might explain how you do certain things in excess at work. This will show that you work hard, but it will be a more honest answer. Examples of weaknesses related to your work ethic might include:

  • Leaving projects unfinished
  • Providing too much detail in reports
  • Shifting from one project to another (multitasking)
  • Taking credit for group projects
  • Taking on too many projects at once
  • Taking on too much responsibility
  • Too detail oriented
  • Too much of a perfectionist
  • Too much procrastination (as long as you still meet all your deadlines)
  • Too helpful
  • Working too many hours

Tips for Talking About Weaknesses

Focus on qualities not necessary for the job. When you consider which weaknesses to mention in an interview, keep in mind that you should focus on qualities that are not central to the requirements of the job for which you are interviewing. For example, if you are applying for a job in accounting, you don’t want to say your weakness is mathematics.

Keep it positive. You want to try and remain positive. You might also explain how your weakness could be seen as a positive in the job.

It may seem impossible in a question about weaknesses; however, you can do this by simply avoiding negative words like “weak” and “failure.”

For example, if you say you are too detail-oriented, you might explain how it is a positive in a job as an editorial assistant.

Emphasize your plan of action. You should explain how you are overcoming (or plan to overcome) your weakness. It is particularly useful when your weakness is a hard skill that can be easily learned. For example, if you are unfamiliar with a software package, you might explain that you are taking an online course to learn the package. You might even phrase your answer as, “One skill I am currently working on…”

Be honest. Finally, while you want to be positive, you should also be honest. Answers like “I don’t have any flaws” will come across as insincere.

Share your strengths. As well as being prepared to mention weaknesses, it's important to discuss the strengths that qualify you for the job during the interview. It's essential to do your best to sell your qualifications to the interviewer, so you're a strong contender for a job offer.