What is your greatest weakness? Tips to help you respond

The trap that many interviewees fall into is knowing what their greatest weakness is, but not knowing how to frame it in a positive light. A job interview is designed to find out where candidates will succeed and struggle, so the last thing you want to do is respond to this question as if you were complaining to your friends about something you are terrible at. Use this guide to re-think how you will answer “What is your greatest weakness?” at your next job interview.

Make a “what's your greatest weakness” question about your strengths

Instead of focusing on what you are bad at, turn the question around to concentrate on your recognition of the fact you set yourself high standards. For example, refer to always wanting to beat targets and how this makes you work too many hours compared to colleagues. You could discuss how being a perfectionist means that you always go over your reports five times before you submit them to your boss. Although these responses show an element of weakness, the main thing they do is explain your strengths.

Talk about non-essential skills or qualifications

You will know before the job interview which traits or qualifications are needed to successfully take on the role. Use this information to figure out which other things you are not necessarily good at, as you will then only be telling the interviewer things that don’t apply to their job vacancy. If you are trying to land a role working as a lifeguard, mention that you have never really been very good at maths. A job in an office might mean that you talk about your lack of sporting knowledge, etc. As long as you have the abilities that are of interest to the employer, these weaknesses won’t hinder your chances of being offered the job.

Use the interview to focus on how you have improved

The best answer is usually the one that explains what you used to consider a weakness, but have now worked on to make a strength. In the interview, tell the employer about the different aspects you have been working hard on to improve, as this will do two things. The first is that it will show him or her that you can spot your own weaknesses and are motivated enough to make sure you eliminate them. The second will be that your dedication to improvement has probably actually made you very strong in the area you used to consider a weakness, as many people simply accept them as that and fail to ever improve. You could say that you were a very disorganised student, but now have a system in place that helps you manage your time and even beat deadlines on occasion. Tell them that you used to be shy, but now attend a number of social groups that have improved your confidence.

Learn from our sample answers

  • I always spend a lot of time checking my work, so I now allow myself extra time to do this to make sure I submit projects by the deadline.
  • I’m not very confident with numbers, so I have hired a tutor that comes to me a couple of times a week and I am already seeing improvements in my abilities.
  • I sometimes don’t know how to ask questions, so I now make sure I get all of the relevant information when a task is first given me. This then usually means that I can get on with my work without having to go back to my boss.
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