How to Answer ‘What Are Your Weaknesses?’

Panel of hiring managers interviewing a smiling, young woman Lucky Business / Shutterstock.com

‘What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?’ – the dreaded question that everyone hopes to avoid in a job interview!

If you say the wrong thing, you can hinder your chances of securing the job but failing to answer it altogether will ensure that your application ends up in the ‘Do Not Hire’ pile.

So, how do you answer this hard-hitting question?

Well, we’ve prepared this handy guide to teach you all there is to know about answering this tricky question while making sure you get one step closer to bagging the job of your dreams.

 

 

The Purpose

The purpose of this question isn’t to embarrass you or trick you into telling the interview panel what you’re not good at, but rather to gain insight into your character and how you solve problems.

The question is also posed to see if you are a good fit for the organisation and the job you’ve applied for. For example, if you are applying for a customer service role and you tell the hiring manager that you’re shy, you most likely won’t be a good match for the job as you’ll be expected to deal with customers all day.

Hiring managers also take note of how you answer this question; they pay attention to whether you crumble under pressure or if you answer confidently and with conviction.

 

How to Answer the Question

Use these tips to help you craft the perfect answer to a question about your biggest weakness.

1. Be Honest

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, but rather that you should mention something that you can develop. In other words, list an improving weakness, something that you can work on over time.

2. Select a Weakness That Wouldn’t Directly Affect Your Job

That said, the weakness you choose to mention shouldn’t directly affect the job that you’re applying for. If the job requires you to be good with numbers, for example, then you shouldn’t identify math as your weakness. Likewise, if you’re in sales, don’t confess to being quiet or shy.

3. Make Sure the Weakness Is Relatively Minor

Although the weakness shouldn’t affect the job, it should be related to the position in general and be minor. It should be something that can be fixed without any interference. For example, public speaking is a weakness that many professionals struggle with, but it is something that can be improved with practice.

4. Use the STAR Technique

When describing your weakness during your interview, you should consider using the STAR method to do so:

  • Situation: Explain the context of the example (public speaking at work)
  • Task: Specify what your goal is (to present with ease in front of a large group of people)
  • Action: Describe the actions you took to improve your weakness (training classes, etc)
  • Result: Mention the outcome (more relaxed when giving presentations now).

5. Mention What You’ve Done to Resolve the Issue

When providing your answer, it’s important to list the measures you have taken to resolve your struggle. And if you haven’t already made any progress, you should start doing it now! There are many ways to improve and overcome weaknesses; these include joining workshops, doing volunteer work, taking on extra duties, getting a mentor and finding tools to help.

 

 

Sample Answers

The answers listed below can be used as a template when forming your own answer based on your personal experiences. They are intended as a guide and shouldn’t be copied word-for-word.

  • I’m not very good at gauging how long a task will take to complete, especially when I spend a lot of time deliberating over the finer details, resulting in wasted time when I could be allocating it to more important projects. To address this issue, I’ve started using time management apps that have helped me time tasks and stick to my set deadlines and organise my working schedule to ensure I am working efficiently.
  • An area that I could definitely improve in is my delegation skills. I am always reluctant to hand my tasks to others and feel like they wouldn’t complete them as well as I can. Unfortunately, this attitude has slowed some projects down, so in order to make sure that I work on my delegation skills, I volunteered to manage the summer interns. By doing so, I’ve learnt how to train the interns and delegate properly to ensure I have time to attend to more pressing tasks.
  • Occasionally, I can be too direct when providing feedback to coworkers as I am very straightforward. And although this is valued by most of my coworkers, it can be too harsh for others. To help me be more diplomatic, I’ve enrolled in a conflict management training course which has taught me to be more constructive when delivering feedback to others.
  • Public speaking is definitely my biggest weakness in the workplace. Although I’m comfortable talking in front of a small group, I tend to get nervous when asked to present to larger audiences. To challenge myself and improve my presentation skills, I enrolled in an acting class, and I also volunteer to present whenever the opportunity arises. With practice, I’ve become more comfortable and confident, and I have even received great feedback after my last presentation on XYZ.

 

Mistakes to Avoid

When forming your answer, be sure to avoid these common pitfalls.

1. Turning a Negative into a Positive

Many candidates fall into the trap of turning a negative into a positive by saying that they are ‘too much of a perfectionist’ or ‘too dedicated to their work’. While they may think that they’ve earned major brownie points, the complete opposite is achieved. Pretending that perfectionism is a personal weakness is the oldest trick in the book, and you should avoid cliché answers like this at all costs!

2. Refusing to Answer the Question

Saying that you can’t think of a single weakness is probably worse than directly telling the hiring manager that you are Mr or Mrs Perfect. This answer insinuates that you have something to hide and it shows that you didn’t prepare well enough for the interview.

3. Highlighting a Weakness That Raises a Red Flag

Another issue you can face when answering this question is when you reveal a weakness that can hinder your job performance. For example, by saying: ‘I really struggle to get up for work in the morning and I’m often 5–10 minutes late’, you’re only highlighting your poor time management skills. As a result, this will make hiring managers question your ability to perform well on the job.

 

 

Although you will naturally be nervous during your interview, it’s essential that you prepare answers to common interview questions such as ‘what are your weaknesses?’ in advance. It will help you be more confident and prepared, as well as ensure that you present yourself in the best possible light.

Have you had difficulties answering this question before? Join the conversation below and let us know about your personal experiences!