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What Is Your Biggest Weakness?

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 this question?

Primarily, interviews are looking to see whether you can do the job successfully. If it’s a role with a high level of client responsibility and you say you’re disorganized, 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

In addition to learning about your weaknesses, interviewers want to see if you’re able to 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, make a list of a few options for weaknesses you could talk about, 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 a lot of 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 it’s important to be self-aware, 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. 

Cliche answers

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 come across as insincere or show that you haven’t given much thought to your actual weaknesses. 

Saying you have none 

Nobody’s perfect, so if you say you have no shortcomings, you’ll appear arrogant and oblivious. 

Interview answer example #1

“I’m impatient, which means I sometimes struggle working with people who don’t share my sense of urgency. I’ve learned that I need to take a step back and examine the reasons behind my impatience. Is there an important deadline I’m trying to meet, or would I just prefer to get the task done? If it’s the latter, I give it a few days before taking any action. Usually by that point things have moved forward on their own.”

Interview answer example #2

“I’m my own biggest critic, which means I second-guess my work. My resume shows I’ve been successful in my previous jobs, so I know this is mostly in my head and I’m taking steps to correct it, like relying on my manager’s feedback instead of my own assessment of my performance. I’ve also found that journaling is a helpful way for me to see things more objectively.”

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 for landing the job.