How To Answer the ‘What’s your Weakness’ Interview Question?

You can’t escape it: most interviewers will ask you the often dreaded question, “What’s your greatest weakness?”  Many people think that the best way to answer this question is to actually give a strength, simply disguised as a weakness.  I disagree.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten “I’m a perfectionist” or “I have trouble saying no” as answers to this question.  As an interviewer, it’s disheartening to know you just got served a phony bunch of you-know-what.  In the age of being more genuine, why not give an honest answer?

Well, there’s always the risk that you say something that will cost you the job.  Sure, but that’s the case with any answer you provide in an interview.  Here are a few things to consider so you can give an honest answer about your weakness:

What is a secondary (or not critical skill) to this role that you could improve upon? 

We all have weaknesses, but some matter less depending on how relevant they are to the job.  For example, if you are interviewing for a job as a web developer, you probably wouldn’t want to say, “I need to improve my coding skills.”  Instead, you might say that public speaking is a challenge for you.

How did you become aware of this weakness?

The main purpose of interviewers asking this question in the first place is to gauge your self-awareness.  Again, we all have weaknesses, but some are better than others at tapping into who they are and how to become better employees.  The more self-aware you are, they more likely you are to work toward improving.  Perhaps you haven’t had an opportunity to develop X skill, but can show that you know this and are looking forward to the opportunity to do so in a new role.  Be careful here-don’t play the blame game.  You and only you are responsible for your strengths and weaknesses.

How are you working on it?

End on a positive.  After acknowledging that you are aware of the weakness, note how you have or are planning to make an effort toward improving this weakness.  Alternatively, you could provide an example of how you have successfully done this with another skill in the past.  If you choose to do this, be sure to connect how that relates to you improving upon this new weakness. 

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Of course there are a few weaknesses that would raise a red flag for any employer, such as “poor communication skills” or “unable to work as a team/independently.” Again it’s important for you be honest and authentic in your answer, but also be selective.  Demonstrate your self-awareness and desire to grow.