Are you prepared to discuss your weaknesses during a job interview? One of the trickiest interview questions to answer is, “What is your greatest weakness?” This question is challenging because it’s easy to respond in a way that comes off as dishonest (“I have no weaknesses!”) or disqualifying (“I am bad at this one skill that’s an absolute must-have for this job.”)
There are ways to respond effectively and strategies you can use to best answer the question, so the weaknesses you mention don't impact your chance of getting the job.
Why Interviewer Ask About Weaknesses
In addition to learning about what you can do, the interviewer wants to know about what you can't do, or what you have difficulty with on the job.
How you respond will also help the interviewer understand how well you know yourself, as well as whether you would be a good fit for the role. It also shows the interviewing that you know that nobody is perfect, and that you're willing to work to improve your skills and excel.
How to Answer Interview Questions About Weaknesses
What should you talk about when you're asked what you can improve? 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 also don't want to come across as too arrogant and perfect, because almost nobody is.
You do want your answer to be honest, but as positive as possible. Be careful when you answer questions about weaknesses (and strengths), and you'll be able to show how you're a good fit for the job.
Focus on steps you are taking to improve on your weaknesses, and avoid mentioning weaknesses in 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.
List of Weaknesses
There are different categories of weaknesses that you can choose from when answering interview questions about your shortcomings.
However, do not choose a weakness at random. Instead, make sure the one you select is not critical to the job, and mention in your interview the ways you plan to improve upon this weakness.
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 software 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
Soft skills are important for almost every job. Unlike hard skills, these are skills that are hard to quantify. They encompass your personality traits, your communication abilities, and your social skills.
While they are important, you could 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 (many jobs don't require creativity)
- Delegating tasks (if you're not in a management role, you won't need to delegate)
- Humor (it's fine if you're not funny)
- Spontaneity (you work better when prepared)
- Taking too many risks
- Being too honest
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 co-workers. 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:
- Covering for co-workers
- Expecting too much from colleagues
- Expressing too much frustration with underperforming staff or colleagues
- Presenting to large groups
- Public speaking
- Being too critical of other people’s work
- Too easily internalizing the problems of clients
- Being too sensitive
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
- Being too detail-oriented
- Being too much of a perfectionist
- Too much procrastination (as long as you still meet all your deadlines)
- Being too helpful to others
- Working too many hours
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)
- Being overly involved in on-campus activities (if a student or recent graduate)
- Spending too much time on school assignments
- Standardized tests
What to Say During an Interview
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. It's important to try and remain positive. You might also explain how your weakness could be seen as a positive in the job. For example, being very detailed oriented is an asset for many positions.
While it might seem impossible to do this in a question about weaknesses, all you have to do is to simply avoid using negative words like “weak” and “failure.”
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. You might even phrase your answer as, “One skill I am currently working on…”
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 also essential to do your best to sell your qualifications to the interviewer, so you're a strong contender for a job offer.
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.