It’s a common question from interviewers. It’s also one that troubles interviewees.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
The interviewer is finding out how insightful you are. You should be able to identify your own weaknesses. The interviewer is also trying to see how you handle awkward questions.
You should use this question as an opportunity to prove that you’re both self-aware and capable of improving yourself.
What not to say
It’s key to pick a weakness that wouldn’t be a detriment to your work. If you answer that you have poor time management skills or you don’t get along with people, you’re likely to have ruined the interview. At the same time don’t go with the clichéd responses. These include “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much”. They are transparent.
Here are some examples of answers you should avoid.
- I don’t have any weaknesses.
- I’m a perfectionist.
- I work too hard.
- I have poor time management.
- I’m often late.
- I’m bad with people.
- I’m lazy.
Honesty is a good thing – to a point. Leave this list alone.
The hidden second question
Answer the main question “what is your greatest weakness?” but there’s an implicit second question hiding behind it. That question is “and what are you doing to improve it?”
Even if the interviewer doesn’t ask this, it’s implied. Make sure that your answer includes a response to this.
Here are some ideas for your stated weakness and resolution:
- I’m a people pleaser. You might say yes too often even when you’re drowning in work. You have to be careful here not to come across unassertive. Mention that you are working on how to better delegate or frame refusals in a positive way.
- You’re a recent graduate or career changer. You have limited experience but you’re open to new ideas. You can prove how you’re keen to learn.
- You’re not familiar with the software they use. You can talk about similar systems you’ve used, and you’re a fast learner. You can also talk about being proactive taking online courses or watching YouTube tutorials.
Alternative ways of asking this question
This question can also come in other guises. For example, the employer might ask how your friends or colleagues would describe you. You should definitely list your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. The trick here is not sounding arrogant.
Looking for more interview tips and advice? Check out our dedicated blog section here.