The question “what is your biggest weakness” is a favorite of interviewers, yet it can feel like a trap. This is supposed to be your opportunity to sell them on why you’re a great fit for the position, and now they’re asking you to reveal why you might not be so great. What gives?
While it might feel like a trick question, asking about your biggest weakness can help interviewers spot a mismatch before they make the wrong hire. Learn how to answer this tough interview question and some tips for what NOT to do below.
Why do managers ask about your weaknesses?
Primarily, interviews are looking to see whether you can do the job successfully. Suppose it’s a role with a high level of client responsibility and you say you’re disorganized. In that case, it doesn’t bode well for your ability to maintain the company’s professional level of service. Learning about your weaknesses can help interviewers identify red flags that indicate you might not be the strongest candidate.
What hiring managers look for in an answer about your largest weakness
In addition to learning about your weaknesses, interviewers want to see if you can take accountability for your shortcomings. Growth is a part of professional advancement, and you can’t grow if you can’t be honest about what needs improvement.
They also want to learn whether you’re doing anything to improve upon your weaknesses, like taking a public speaking class if you’re not great at giving presentations or using a time management tool if you have trouble with procrastination.
How to answer the interview question ” What is your biggest weakness?”
Pick a non-essential skill
While you want to choose something that’s an actual weakness, you also want to make sure it’s not a quality that’s a must to do the job. First, list a few options for weaknesses you could discuss, then compare them against the job description to make sure they’re not listed. Ideally, you want to pick a skill that’s not directly related to the job.
Choose a personal quality
Rather than making your answer about skills, one example is to position an aspect of your personality or work style as a weakness. For example, “I’m an introvert, and sometimes it prevents me from seeking out networking opportunities that might help my career.” As long as it’s not a role that requires a high level of public interaction, being an introvert wouldn’t keep you from doing your job well.
Keep it positive
Don’t spend much time talking about how your weakness has held you back. Instead, focus on what you’re doing to improve upon it or what you’ve learned about yourself as a result of it. For example, “Because I have a hard time saying no, I’ve learned I need to ask for more time to consider my existing obligations before agreeing to take on new projects.”
How not to answer
Talking too much about your weakness
While being self-aware is important, you don’t want to sell yourself short. Don’t ramble on about your weakness or tell a story about how it set you back in a major way.
Avoid the overused, not-really-a-weakness answers like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” Aside from being cliche, these answers can appear insincere or show that you haven’t given much thought to your weaknesses.
Saying you have none
Nobody’s perfect, so if you say you have no shortcomings, you’ll appear arrogant and oblivious.
Sample answers to “What is your biggest weakness?”
By choosing a weakness that you’re working on improving and one that’s not an essential skill for the role, you’ll demonstrate self-awareness and accountability without tanking your chances of landing the job.