Hiring managers love to ask questions about your greatest weakness in a job interview. They’ll expect detailed examples in your answer, and they want to hear a unique weakness.
To make things even tougher, some employers are now asking for 3 weaknesses.
So in this article, I’m going to show you EXACTLY how to handle questions about weaknesses in the job interview with example answers.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Let’s get started…
Hiring managers ask about your biggest weakness (or top 3 weaknesses) for a few reasons.
…whether you’re self-aware and able to identify a weak spot and be honest about it. And whether you’re upfront/comfortable talking about a weakness in general.
Believe it or not, they don’t want someone to say, “I’m great at everything. I have no weakness.” Because nobody’s amazing at everything! We all have strengths and areas we’re not so great at.
So part of the reason they’re asking is to measure your character and personality.
If you do have a weakness that’s going to hurt your performance in their company, they want to know and avoid hiring you! So I’ll talk about what weaknesses not to share in the next section.
Fortunately, if you’re going to go into the interview room with a game-plan for this specific question, so you’ll feel a lot less pressure than most candidates!
So now let’s look at how to plan out a great answer to your greatest weakness, or top 3 weaknesses… plus what NOT to do.
This is probably what you’ve been told to do when asked about weaknesses in the interview. It’s okay, but not great…
The strategy: Turn a strength into a weakness.
If you’ve ever looked for help answering this question in the past, you were probably told to do something like this.
Example answer using this strategy:
“Well, sometimes I’m too detail-oriented and thorough, so I have to remember to hit my deadlines and balance speed too.”
“I’m really passionate about this industry and the work I’m doing, so sometimes I need to remind myself to relax and not get over-excited in the moment.”
Interviewers are pretty tired of hearing answers like this, though.
Hiring managers have heard it so many times and it’s lost its magic. They won’t be thrilled with interview answers like this because it doesn’t really tell them anything about you, other than the fact that you read a few interview tricks before coming in.
They want a real weakness; They want to learn something about you and your background.
So here’s how to give a much better answer when they ask you about weaknesses in an interview…
Now that you know what not to do when naming your weaknesses in a job interview, let’s look at what you *should* do to “wow” the hiring manager.
When they ask “what’s your greatest weakness?”, I recommend you be straight-forward and give a candid answer to the hiring manager, they’ll appreciate it IF you do it right…
That means you have to keep a few things in mind and avoid a couple of potential traps.
First, don’t name a weakness related to how you work with others or how you get along with management.
Examples include: Trouble following instructions, trouble communicating, being prone to arguments and disagreements, etc. You better pick a different weakness to share, because no hiring manager wants to hear this type of thing.
In fact, to play it even safer I recommend you pick something skill-based, not personality-based. That’ll keep you in the clear.
When you pick something skill-based, you want it to be relevant to your work, but not a primary focus of the job you’re applying for. If you’re looking to become an accountant, don’t say your weakness is working with numbers or being detail oriented.
However, you could say your weakness is a certain type of tool or software, or an entire area of accounting that you haven’t worked particularly closely with recently. Maybe you studied it in school but haven’t had a chance to use it hands-on since then and you’d require some time to brush up.
After giving a real weakness in your answer, you want to show how you’re stopping this weakness from being an issue, or how you’re making sure it doesn’t affect your overall work.
For example, maybe you’re rapidly improving in the area.
Maybe you’ve found a way around it with other tools/skills, etc.
I put a sample answer below to show you how this might sound in the interview.
The example is based on somebody in the software/programming field, but you should be able to understand this no matter what.
“When I look at my skill set as a whole, one weakness right now would be Java Programming. It’s just not something that I’ve been asked to do since school so I understand the fundamentals but I’m pretty rusty in terms of working hands-on with it. I was planning on brushing up in the next few months to broaden my skill set, though. I think it’d help me be more well-rounded and would filter down into other areas that I use more often in my work.”
This is a good answer as long as you’re not interviewing for a job where they expect you to start using this skill (Java programming) every day.
Never name a weakness that’s a core part of the job you’re interviewing for!
Look at the job description and you’ll get a sense of this before the interview.
Now, sometimes employers will ask for 3 weaknesses in a job interview, so let’s look at examples of how to answer that now.
Let’s say they ask you, “What are your top 3 weaknesses?”
This is a bit tougher… not only because you have to think of 3 different things while making sure it’s not going to scare the employer off, but you also have to keep your answer organized.
So for this reason, I’d recommend picking 3 closely-related topics that are weaknesses. Don’t pick one personality trait, one hard-skill like Java programming, and one area like leadership or delegation. Keep them all related.
So going back to the example answer above, we can adapt it a bit to include 3 weaknesses now. Here’s how it’d look…
“When I look at my skill set as a whole, I think three weaknesses are Java, Ruby, and CSS. Those are just not programming languages I’ve been asked to use or be involved in since school. So I understand the fundamentals, but I’m pretty rusty in terms of working hands-on with them. I was planning on brushing up in the next few months to broaden my skill set, though, even if they’re not required in this role. I think it’d help me be more well-rounded and would filter down into other areas that I use more often in my work.”
If you read the full article you now know why hiring managers ask, “what’s your greatest weakness”.
And you know why the typical answer most people are giving is *not* going to impress them.
You also know the two-step formula to come up with a great answer that WILL stand out and make them want to offer you the job.
If you missed that, make sure to go back up and get familiar with the two-step answer formula for giving a real weakness and then explaining how you’ve overcome it. That’s by far the BEST way to answer “what is your greatest weakness?” or “what are your weaknesses?” in the interview.
If you give this type of answer instead of the typical “fake” weakness (a strength disguised as a weakness), you’re going to build a much better connection with the hiring manager and they’ll really appreciate the thoughtful, genuine answer you came up with.
This is how you stand out in the interview and make yourself memorable (so you can get more job offers!)
Any time you can avoid giving a cookie-cutter, common interview answer and say something unique is good.
I’d highly recommend going into each interview prepared to share at least one detailed example of a weakness using this two-step method.
Related article: Answering “What is your greatest strength?”