How To Answer: What is Your Greatest Weakness? (Sample Answers Included)

what are your weaknesses

By Mike Simpson

UPDATED 6/21/2022

what are your weaknesses

Let’s pretend you’re in an interview, and as far as you can tell, it’s going great. You’ve nailed every question the hiring manager has thrown at you, and you’re feeling good. Then, they drop a bomb on you: “So, tell me, what is your greatest weakness?”

In many ways, talking about weaknesses during a job interview feels like you’re being set up to fail. However, while it’s true the hiring manager will factor your response in, they aren’t actually hoping that you’ll stumble.

If you’re wondering why hiring managers ask this question and how to answer “what are your weaknesses” like a champ, here’s what you need to know.

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask This Question?

So, why do hiring managers ask you to discuss your weaknesses? While it’s true that some answers could work against you – such as listing a skill that’s a core part of the job – the hiring manager isn’t typically focused on the capability you mention. Instead, they’re more worried about how you answer.

As the Balance puts it, the hiring manager is “looking for indicators that show you’ve been able to learn new tasks and handle new challenges.” It’s not about you not excelling in a particular arena; it’s about you having a plan for overcoming challenges.

There are also a few more aspects to this question. The hiring manager wants to see how well you respond to a question that’s intentionally meant to throw you off your game, for one. For another, they want to get insights into your self-awareness.

When you’re developing your answer, you have to delve deep into your own inner psyche and do some serious soul searching. If you’re trying to do all this in an interview with no prep, that can be pretty dang terrifying. However, with preparation and a few what is your greatest weakness answer samples, you can get moving in the right direction.

5 Most Common “What Is Your Greatest Weakness” Mistakes

As with all interview questions, it’s possible to make some mistakes when you’re choosing weaknesses for a job interview or coming up with an answer to this question. Let’s go over the top five.

1) Denial

If you deny that you have any weaknesses and resort to false bravado or posturing in your interview, it usually means the end of your opportunities with the company. Why? Because nobody is perfect. Trying to act as if you are will backfire.

Plus, it can make it look as though you’re hiding something. Candidates who answer this way can also seem to lack self-awareness, which can be a major red flag for a hiring manager.

2) Strength as a Weakness

Trying to masquerade a strength as a weakness is always a bad move. Claiming you work too hard, are too much of a perfectionist, or something similar doesn’t usually ring true. Instead, it makes it seem like you’re too afraid to admit you aren’t great at everything you do, causing your answer – and you – to look disingenuous and unauthentic.

3) This Is No Laughing Matter

Going with a joke answer – like saying, “Chocolate cake is my greatest weakness” – isn’t probably going to turn out like you hope. Instead, it may seem like you don’t respect the question enough to give it serious thought. Otherwise, it may come across as a way to hide something.

4) This Isn’t Your Shrink’s Office

Sharing a weakness that has absolutely nothing to do with the job and connects to something deep-seated within you isn’t a smart move. It’s not time to talk about the reason you have a particular phobia or anything in that vein. If you do, the hiring manager may question whether you know how to maintain professional boundaries, which isn’t ideal.

5) This Also Isn’t a Police Interrogation

When you’re discussing work-related weaknesses, less is more. Rambling on or providing more detail that is necessary might raise a red flag or two with your possible future employer, including some you didn’t plan to share.

While you want to be honest, make sure you are concise and focused. That way, you aren’t accidentally too honest when you answer.

So, What is the RIGHT Way to Answer This Question?

Ideally, you want to start coming up with an answer well before you get to the interview. Introspection and self-awareness are part of the equation. You need to sit down and honestly figure out what your weaknesses are, which can take time and focus.

Nobody wants to admit that they have weaknesses, but a good candidate will. Plus, they’ll take that weakness and figure out how to turn it into a strength, giving them a way to overcome the challenge.

Think about times you’ve had trouble in the past and ask yourself tough questions about your role in the situation. Find those flaws, and then figure out how you can fix them.

Then, take a look at the job you’re going after. You’ll want to tailor your answer to the position by choosing one minor enough so as not to raise red flags (but not so minor as to seem like a cop-out). Once you have all of those parts figured out, you can start working on a solid answer for this otherwise frustrating question.

How to Answer What Are Your Weaknesses in a Job Interview

1. Choose a Non-Essential Skill

While you want to select a skill that connects to your professional life, you need to opt for one that isn’t essential to the job you’re hoping to land. Precisely what that is depends on the jobs you are after.

For example, if you’re interviewing for a software developer role, it would be a bad move to say that troubleshooting isn’t your forte. However, there’s likely little risk in stating that you struggle with public speaking.

2. Provide a Little Context

You don’t just want to mention the skill you struggle with and leave it at that. Instead, you need to give just a bit of context. Discuss how the weakness impacts you in a professional sense, as that makes your answer seem more thoughtful and genuine.

3. Outline Efforts to Improve

After you’ve discussed your weakness, you want to outline steps you’re taking to improve or, at least, minimize its impact. If you can show that your weakness doesn’t hold you back as you’re actively striving to overcome it, you’ll seem self-aware, diligent, and committed, which works in your favor.

List of Weaknesses for a Job Interview

If you’re getting ready to come up with some answers of your own, having some weaknesses examples can make it easier. As mentioned above, make sure you choose something that’s genuinely an area where you struggle that also isn’t a core part of the position you want to land. That way, your answer will ring true without hurting your prospects.

Here is a list of weaknesses for a job interview that you might be able to use when answering this question.

    1. Asking for Help
    2. Boundaries
    3. Bluntness
    4. Creativity
    5. Delegation
    6. Distractibility
    7. Exceeding Requirements
    8. Extreme Extroversion
    9. Getting Lost in the Details
    10. Leadership
    11. Mathematics
    12. Motivated by Pressure
    13. Moving on After a Mistake
    14. Multi-Tasking
    15. Organization
    16. Overly Action-Oriented
    17. Overly Analytical
    18. Patience
    19. People Pleasing
    20. Perfectionism
    21. Providing Feedback
    22. Public Speaking
    23. Self-Critical
    24. Struggling with Ambiguity
    25. Team Bonding
    26. Time Management
    27. Timidity
    28. Work-Life Balance
    29. Writing

What Is Your Greatest Weakness Sample Answers

1. What is your greatest weakness? (OR) What is your biggest weakness?

SAMPLE ANSWER:

I have a hard time asking for help, even when it’s the right move and is generally available. Mainly, it’s because I feel that I should be able to tackle everything I’m given on my own. While that does lead me to shine in regards to diligence and accountability, it can be a hindrance, too.

Currently, I am working to improve in this area. I keep a note up near my workstation with the words, “It’s okay to ask for help.” That serves as a reminder, cuing me to take action if I’m legitimately struggling. So far, it’s led to great results, as I’m far more open to reaching out than I was previously.

2. Tell me…. what are your weaknesses?

SAMPLE ANSWER:

I’d say my weaknesses are struggling with setting boundaries and tending to exceed project requirements. In past roles, there was an unspoken expectation to be always available. As a result, I’m now having to shift away from an always-on mindset, something I’m making progress with, but that is taking time.

Additionally, I don’t just aim to go above and beyond within the requirements, I, at times, over-deliver. While it may make a great impression on clients, it can increase timelines and costs, which isn’t ideal. Since that’s the case, I refresh myself on a project’s requirements regularly, giving me a way to stay focused.

3) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

SAMPLE ANSWER:

If I could change one thing, it would be my tendency to get lost in the details. I want every aspect of a project to be perfect, often to the point of over-focusing on the minutia. Along with increasing my stress levels, this can lead to delays, as I’m essentially never satisfied with the results.

I’ve begun working to overcome this by strategically requesting feedback. This allows me to compare my expectations with what’s genuinely needed, giving me a touchstone that prevents this degree of perfectionism. I’ve found that it helps keep things balanced, so it’s a technique I’d like to continue honing in my next role.

4) Are you working on any sort of developmental goals currently? Do you set goals for yourself?

SAMPLE ANSWER:

Currently, I’m working on improving my public speaking skills. While presenting in front of a group isn’t common in my career, I want to be more adept in larger meetings or when discussing projects with clients. Since that’s the case, I’ve signed up for some public speaking courses and joined Toastmasters, both of which I feel are making a difference.

5) If I called your past supervisor, what would they tell me are areas you could improve on?

SAMPLE ANSWER:

If you asked my supervisor if there was an area where I could improve, they’d likely mention my tendency to use pressure as a motivator. While I have a history of turning in my assignments on time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to wait until the last minute to get started. I found the stress highly focusing, which led to strong results. However, it was frustrating to my manager and colleagues, particularly if they needed information about my component of a group project.

That supervisor did work with me to find ways to overcome this challenge. One approach that we found was incredibly effective was to break up my work into a series of smaller tasks, each with its own deadline. Since a deadline was essentially always looming, I could harness pressure as a motivator, all without incidentally holding others back.

What If Your Greatest Weakness is: No Experience?

Now that we’re done with the what is your greatest weakness answer samples, let’s hit one more weakness that really doesn’t have anything to do with personality. What if your greatest weakness is that you lack experience?

If it’s clearly a weakness that even the interviewer can see based on your resume, then don’t be afraid to bring it up. The odds are high that whoever is hiring you is going to anyway.

Take charge of this weakness and use it as a way to show the interviewer that you’re not only aware of the situation but that it’s something that can actually be useful. Show that you more than make up for it in other equally valuable ways. Additionally, highlight your trainability and willingness to learn, potentially also mentioning that you don’t have any bad habits they’ll need to break.

Also, can you pull something from your past work experience that relates or is similar to the job you’re now applying to? Are you doing things outside work (such as further training or certification work) that relate to the job?

Ultimately, you’re showing that you are taking this weakness and tackling it head-on to prepare yourself for the job. This will go a long way in helping to alleviate the fear that you’re a risky hire.

MIKE'S TIP: The "What's your greatest weakness" interview question sets up the hiring manager to ask a series of follow-up questions, and you need to be just as prepared for those as you are for the initial question. Remember that your ultimate goal is to be honest, but clearly demonstrate the steps you are taking to ensure that your weakness is under control.

Putting It All Together

So, there you have it, several solid weaknesses examples along with an outline for how to answer the “what are your weaknesses” interview question. Let the sample answers serve as inspiration, all while you tailor your response to the role.

Remember, a hiring manager is going to be much more impressed with a candidate who has the self-awareness to realize they’re not perfect and is actively taking the initiative needed to improve themselves. Keep that in mind, and you’ll always be ready for the “what is your greatest weakness” interview question.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.