What exactly is the right way to answer “what is your greatest weakness?”
For such a popular interview question, the answer was never really clear!
Are you supposed to deny that you have one? Or go all confession time on recruiters and share your most genuine weakness?
The answer is neither. What you do is turn the situation to your advantage by framing your weaknesses positively.
And no - we don’t mean saying “I’m a perfectionist” or some similar nonsense.
So, wanna know how not to miss a beat when recruiters ask you “what is your greatest weakness?”
This article will show you just that!
- Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”
- How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”
- 5+ “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” Answer Samples
- 49+ Skills You Can Mention as Weaknesses in An Interview
- Tips to Identify (and Address) Your Weaknesses
Why Do Interviewers Ask “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”
The first step to answering “what is your greatest weakness” correctly is to understand why recruiters ask the question in the first place.
When recruiters ask you to identify your greatest weaknesses, they are looking for the following three things:
- Honesty. They want to know if you're honest enough to give a real weakness. Keep in mind that if you get hired, your professional weaknesses will come up in one way or another, so being open about them in advance is the best option.
- Self-awareness, or the ability to analyze yourself and recognize the areas where you need to work on.
- Willingness to improve. Everyone has weaknesses - even recruiters themselves. That’s why they don’t expect you to lie about it. What recruiters do expect, however, is that you’re willing (and trying) to improve.
When you know just what the recruiters are expecting from you, the interview question doesn’t seem as hard, does it?
Now, let’s move on to the next important step:
How to Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”
Let’s first state the obvious.
No matter what, your answer should never be “Weakness? I don’t have a weakness.”
Everybody has weaknesses. Denying yours only shows you’re not self-aware, which is, as we mentioned before, a red flag for recruiters.
Instead, you should frame your weaknesses positively.
And no, that’s not the same as disguising a strength as a weakness (“I’m just TOO detail-oriented”).
What we mean by “frame your weaknesses positively” is the following:
- Don’t lie about your weakness, but choose one that’s not super relevant to the position you’re applying for. You can’t say “my weakness is that I’m bad at writing” if you’re applying for a job as a creative writer, right?
- Talk about the steps you’re taking to improve yourself.
Here’s a concrete example.
Say you’re applying for a job as a copy editor. This is part of the job description:
For starters, you wouldn’t want to answer “what’s your greatest weakness?” with any of the following: effective communication, accuracy, attention to detail, or teamwork.
All these skills are essential to the job and mentioning them as weaknesses would do more harm than good.
Rather, you want to identify a real weakness that you have, discuss it genuinely, and highlight how you are addressing it (or planning to).
Here’s how you can do that:
My greatest weakness is time management. I have always been very detail-oriented, so it sometimes takes me longer to finish a project than I initially think it will. This is why I started using time-tracking software in my last job. It made me more conscious of the time a task takes me and helped me never miss a deadline again.
This is a good answer because:
- It answers with a real weakness, but one that’s not essential to the position.
- It highlights exactly what you’ve done to improve yourself.
Moreover, this answer effectively mentions a strength that is essential to the job: being detail-oriented. If you can also fit one organically into your answer, that’s a huge plus.
Want to know what other questions might come up during a job interview? Our guide has 35+ interview questions (and answers) that recruiters love to ask.
5+ “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” Answer Samples
#1. Lack of experience
This one’s usually a very good answer if you’re a recent university graduate or if you’re switching careers.
For example, let’s say you’re a recent college graduate applying for a job as a graphic designer.
You can say that you lack experience with a certain software because you’ve practiced on a different one.
In such a case, if you’re asked “what is your greatest weakness?” you can answer like this:
- “I’m not experienced with the latest version of Adobe Illustrator, because I’ve practiced my skills using CorelDRAW. However, considering they are both design software, I think I could learn how to use Adobe in no time. ”
Or, like this:
- “I’m not experienced in analyzing large amounts of financial data because I have yet to properly practice the financial literacy skills I acquired at University. I’m confident I will get the hang of it as soon as I get first-hand work experience.”
Teamwork (or lack thereof) is a completely valid weakness, especially if your job doesn’t involve working with many people.
Just make sure not to mix up teamwork skills with effective communication skills, even though the two are connected.
See, there are hardly any jobs out there that don’t require communication skills, so straight-on mentioning communication as your weakness might not be the best idea.
Teamwork, on the other hand, involves close collaboration with a team to achieve a common goal, which is not necessarily required in every field.
Here’s how you can tell the recruiter about this weakness:
- “I’m not a team player, honestly. I’ve always been less productive working with a group of people, while I do my best when I’m alone. This is one of the reasons I chose to become a writer.”
You’d be surprised how many people struggle with procrastination. It’s a (bad) habit that’s been around for so long, there’s even a Goodreads quote page dedicated to it.
As a weakness, procrastination can be a two-edged sword. If you don’t frame it properly, recruiters might assume you’re likely to miss deadlines or submit low-quality work.
The key here is to mention exactly how you’ve improved or are planning to improve this weakness.
Here’s how to frame your answer:
- “Since I was in university, I have struggled with procrastination. Before I worked my first job, I didn’t think it was a weakness, because I never missed a deadline. I just had to pull an all-nighter here and there. But after I saw how my procrastination on a task affects the productivity of the entire team and the quality of a project’s result, I realized it’s a weakness I should improve. I changed my work ethic, how I tackle tasks, and how I motivate myself to work and have seen considerable improvement. I no longer rely on last-minute panic to complete my work.”
Struggling to remain patient is one of those weaknesses that is almost justifiable to have.
Think about it. It’s almost impossible not to lose your patience at some point or another when you’re working. It might happen because of a difficult task you can’t complete, or a colleague missing a deadline. The point is how you react to your impatience and whether you let it impact your relations with your coworkers or customers.
So, unless you’re working a job where it’s essential to be patient (such as being a teacher), you can use impatience as a weakness as long as you frame it positively.
Here’s how to do that:
- “At times, impatience gets the best of me. If I’m working on a team project and I think that we’re not handling the task at hand in the best way, I tend to get fidgety and annoyed. In my last job, this weakness impacted my relationship with coworkers, so I’ve now enrolled in a training course to cultivate patience in the workplace. I’m also actively practicing patience outside of work to make it a habit in my daily life.”
Many people grapple with self-criticism.
At one point or another, we feel like we could have done more, or that we didn’t give our all towards a certain task.
For this reason, self-criticism is a weakness that you can use in most situations when recruiters ask you what your greatest weakness is.
Here’s how you’d go about it:
- “My greatest weakness is that I’m too critical of myself and often feel like I’m not giving my best, or like I disappoint the people I work with. This often led me to overwork myself, burn out, or feel inferior to my colleagues, although my supervisors hadn’t complained about my performance. During the past year, I have been working on myself actively, trying to be fairer with myself.”
Multitasking might not be as great as you think.
Yes, our increasingly busy lifestyles can sometimes trick us into thinking multitasking is amazing, but recent studies show multitasking can seriously harm work performance.
Multitasking makes you more likely to make mistakes at work, be less efficient with your tasks, and overall really hurts your productivity.
Hence, you can easily use multitasking as an answer to “what is your greatest weakness?”
Here’s how you’d reply to the interviewers:
- “My weakness? I multitask too much. I first noticed it was an issue in my last job - I was too distracted and tackling two or three tasks at once ruined my productivity. I’ve been minding how I work ever since and I make sure to always define and prioritize all my tasks. Then, instead of juggling 3 at the same time, I try to go through them one by one.”
Looking for more examples? Head over to our guide on 22+ strengths and weaknesses for job interviews.
Skills You Can Mention as Weaknesses in An Interview
By now, you should understand that it’s not really about the weakness, but about the way you present the weakness and the steps you’re taking to improve on it.
If you are truthful and proactive about your weakness, it shows that you’re the type of person who shows drive and initiative - both must-have skills for a lot of employers.
Having said this, you can take a look at the list below of soft skills that you can mention as weaknesses to get you thinking on what your weakness is:
- Task delegation
- Taking on risks
- Creative writing
- Financial literacy
- Foreign languages (or a particular foreign language)
- A particular software
- Being too honest
- Public speaking/Presenting
- Time management
- Sharing responsibility
- Taking on too much responsibility
- Taking on too many projects at once
As we mentioned before, you can mention any of these weaknesses as long as they’re not directly related to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re applying for a position as a TV reporter, your weakness shouldn’t be public speaking, shyness, or teamwork - lacking these skills will negatively impact your ability to do the job (and will lead to you not getting hired).
Instead, you could say the following:
- “Some of my weaknesses? Let’s see...First, I’d say I’m not a very spontaneous person. I prefer to work prepared and according to a well-defined plan. This sometimes works to my disadvantage, because it’s impossible to always be prepared. Another weakness is that I sometimes take on too many projects at once. This can sometimes hinder the quality of my work. This is why I’ve made it a practice to set realistic goals every time I take on a project and share more responsibilities with my colleagues.”
Tips to Identify (and Address) Your Weakness
Now, in case we didn’t stress this enough, it’s important to be as genuine as possible when recruiters ask “what is your greatest weakness?”
This means that your weakness should be authentic, not just a skill that you picked out of a list because you think it’s harmless to the position you’re applying to.
The more authentic the weakness you mention (and the steps you’re taking to address it), the easier you’ll come across as a self-aware and self-improving candidate.
In this section, we’ll teach you just how you can do this.
Identifying Your Weakness
Struggling to pinpoint your weak points? Ask yourself the following:
- Did my past supervisors criticize me on a particular aspect of my work?
- Was I ever asked to improve something and how did I approach it?
- How have I failed to complete work tasks and what have I done to improve?
- What is something I’m really not fond of doing in terms of work?
- What were some of my weaknesses back when I was a student?
- Was there something specific that professors criticized me about during my academic studies?
The answers that come up more frequently will be your main weaknesses.
Addressing Your Weaknesses
Now, identifying your weaknesses doesn’t mean much unless you go the extra mile and improve on them.
And sure, you can take a shortcut and say you’re doing something to address your weaknesses just for the sake of replying to the interview question correctly, but sooner or later that could harm your work performance.
That’s why, instead of just mentioning it during the job interview, we advise you to try out one of the following ways to address your weakness:
- Use tools that can help you improve your weaknesses
- Enroll in a class
- Ask for feedback
- Consult an advisor
- Practice the skill/s outside of work
- Join a workshop
- Get training
- Get advice from someone whose strength is your weakness
Well, that was a lot to take in!
Hopefully, now you’re more than prepared to answer “what is your greatest weakness?”
Just in case, let’s go over some of the main points we covered in the article:
- When recruiters ask “what is your greatest weakness,” they are looking to see if you are honest, self-aware, and willing to improve.
- Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you’re applying to and by stressing exactly how you’re practically addressing your weakness.
- Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.
- An authentic answer goes a long way. That’s why the best solution is to identify your real weaknesses and take proactive measures to address them.