“What’s your greatest weakness?” 

This is one of the many dreaded interview questions that you need to be prepared for.

It’s a tough one to answer because you could end up giving an answer that immediately disqualifies you.

A good response to this question depends on your target field and what the key job requirements are.

The weakness question is used to weed out candidates

The employer is asking you this question because it’s a way to determine:

Can you do the job?

Are you a suitable fit?

Can you think quickly on your feet?

Did you prepare a good answer?

The question is problematic

It’s kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.

If you admit a weakness that is the opposite of a key job requirement, you won’t get the job.

If you say you can’t think of any or you don’t have any, you will likely be disqualified for not being self-aware and not preparing for the question.

The best way to answer the question (without shooting yourself in the foot)

Come up with a weakness that’s:

➤ actually a strength in disguise but don’t say you’re “a perfectionist”. Everyone says that and you might get rejected just for being unoriginal.

➤ something you overcame a long time ago

➤ not going to be perceived as something that will get in the way of you doing a good job if the employer were to hire you

➤ not going to make you look like you’re not a “perfect fit” for the job

➤ a learned skill that can be changed easily as opposed to a personality trait that is harder to change

➤ not relevant to the target position

Then briefly explain how you were able to overcome this weakness so that it won’t be perceived an issue.

Everyone has weaknesses – it’s how you take ownership of them that’s most important. The employer wants to know if you’re the kind of person who is open to self-improvement.

How to identify a weakness

❏ Think about when a former employer said where there was room for improvement. It might be something that wasn’t a major issue, but just something to work on.

❏ Where did you make the same kind of mistakes a few times in the past that you were able to correct over time?

❏ What were you criticized for by an employer, colleague, or client that you feel is justified but something that you have since rectified?

Here are some examples of weakness answers:

Example #1:  If your target job doesn’t require a lot of technical computer skills because it’s a more creative role, then you could say something like this:

“While I use technology regularly, it’s not my greatest strength. I’m more of a creative person, so I used to get easily frustrated when technology didn’t work properly. It would really throw me off my game. This added stress and affected my productivity level. I decided to learn how to troubleshoot tech problems before reaching out for support and I can say that I’m now way more comfortable with trying to fix things on my own first. Although I am far from being an expert, I’m much more confident and feel less stressed when I encounter technical challenges”.

Example #2:  If your target job is not a supervisory position but one where you would be more of a single contributor and not be required to interface with many people, you could use this as your answer:

“I’m someone who likes to get tasks completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. I used to be a bit impatient when other people weren’t demonstrating the same sense of urgency I had to move forward quickly. I guess I was a bit pushy with colleagues and clients to get things done right away so we could move on to the next thing. Anyhow, I realized that my approach was a bit off-putting for people, so after some coaching, I was able to communicate with people in a way that was “softer”.

Example #2:  If your target job is in an industry which you have no experience working in, you could try something like this:

“While I have weaved many baskets on my own time, I’ve never actually worked in the basket weaving industry. I guess you could say that my lack of professional work experience would be a weakness. However, with my hands-on basket weaving experience of more than 10 years and my genuine passion for this art form, along with all of the courses and workshops I’ve taken, I feel that I have a great deal of expertise and knowledge to offer. I have weaved and sold over 200 baskets that I priced at a premium and people from all over the world buy them.”

Don’t admit to anything that could be considered a weakness such as:

  • Lack of integrity/dishonesty
  • Verbal/physical violence
  • Overly emotional
  • Eccentric
  • Angry
  • Cruel
  • Destructive
  • Lazy
  • Moody/Depression
  • Overly anxious
  • Unreliable
  • Substance abuse

Even if you overcame any of the above, these kinds of traits are considered personality flaws which are not easily corrected and therefore an employer would be concerned, so don’t go there.

That being said, if you are struggling with any of these, I would highly recommend you seek out professional help to get control of it before you launch any job search.

Have more than 3 weaknesses prepared

The employer might not ask for just one weakness, they might ask for two or even three!

You should have at least three weakness answers prepared before going to any interviews and practice your responses, so they roll off your tongue easily and naturally.

When in doubt you could try the “irrelevant weakness”

Some experts say you can offer a weakness that is completely irrelevant to the position you are targeting.

However, this might irritate the interviewer because it could look like you’re trying to dodge the question by giving a weak answer. This is something you’ll have to think about.

The irrelevant weakness can be something that’s more of a personal thing like a hobby or interest.

For instance, you could say that your weakness is that you’re obsessed with cooking expensive gourmet meals on the weekend.  Your partner is irritated with the increased credit card bills.  This has forced you to put in more hours at work, so you can make more over time to compensate for the increased expenses which are only creating more of a problem. So, you decided to choose recipes that don’t require expensive ingredients which solved the problem.

I personally wouldn’t be that impressed with an answer like that. I’d like to see the candidate be more forthcoming with a weakness that is specifically related to their professional career.

Find your best weaknesses!!

The idea is to come up with strong weakness answers which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one. ?

The ultimate goal is to present answers that are as relevant to the position as possible without hurting your chances to be considered for the position. It’s a balancing act and will require a judgment call on your part.

If you’re not sure what your three weakness answers should be, then I would recommend that you reach of to me here for some coaching.

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I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.

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