“What is your greatest weakness?” While it’s not the best interview question, it’s a common one, and you can expect it to come up in your job hunt. You need to be prepared to answer the question–and not with the standard Michael Scott from The Office answer: “ I work too hard, I care too much, and sometimes I can be too invested in my job.”
Expect that your interviewer will ask this question, and to give your best answer, here's what you need to know.
If you are searching for a job, ZipRecruiter is a great site to utilize. ZipRecruiter is free to use and has a quick apply feature that allows you to apply for jobs with a single click. For additional options, check out the best job posting sites.
Why Do Employers Ask About Weaknesses?
Everyone has weaknesses, but hiring managers aren't really interested in hearing about your struggle with Oreos or how much you hate doing the dinner dishes. They want to know if there is anything that will prevent you from doing a good job.
For instance, if you say, “My biggest weakness is I struggle to get out of bed in the morning,” many interviewers will cross you off their list. People want employees that are at work on time—even if the person works from home.
If you say, “I'm a perfectionist,” which many people say, thinking that's a sneaky way to Michael Scott in a positive, your manager knows you won't be flexible, don't understand the value of “good enough,” and will be nit-picky when it comes to your coworkers' performance. That's a hard pass.
But not all weaknesses are going to disqualify you.
Related: How To Prepare For A Video Interview
How To Answer Interview Questions About Weaknesses
The best approach to this question is to answer the question they should have asked instead of answering, “what is your greatest weakness.”
Here's the question they should have asked, “Tell me about a time at work where you struggled with something and how you overcame it.”
Do you see the difference? The first question just asks you to tell something you terrible about yourself. The second asks you to demonstrate how you took on a challenge and overcame it. This is not the same as pretending to list a strength rather than a true weakness. You need to include a real weakness. Here are some examples.
Possible answer: “I struggle with organizing my time and paperwork, so I developed a system to keep these things on track. First of all, I do everything electronically and have a naming convention so that I can find old files. I scan paper documents and put them in their correct electronic file if need be. Secondly, I track my work using [name software], so I can tell at a glance if I'm on schedule or if I need to change something. These two things have really made a difference in time management and paperwork.”
Join The Break Community
Possible answer: “I am a great doer, so when I was first promoted to manager, I struggled with letting my employees do their jobs the best way for them. I wanted everyone to do everything my way—even if their results were just as good if not better than mine. So, I learned to take a step back before offering feedback and ask myself the following question: Is this wrong or just different? If the answer was wrong, then I corrected it. If the answer was just different, I told the employee to keep up the good work.”
If you’re struggling to think of other ideas for weaknesses, take a peek at your resume. Reading through your past roles may help job your memory on a certain thing you struggled with. If you need help with your resume, check out our guide to the best resume writing services.
List Of Weaknesses
It's impossible to list all possible weaknesses, but here are a few that are common and are career-focused. Remember, unless you're applying to be a fitness coach, no one wants to hear about your struggle with weight loss.
There are two critical points to selecting the weakness you wish to discuss. It must be a true weakness, and two, you must have a solution or workaround for it. Here are some sample ideas:
- I have a hard time switching from project to project.
- I’m easily distracted.
- I’m not good at taking feedback. Sometimes I have to sit with something to let it sink in.
- I tend to blurt out what I’m thinking.
- I’m afraid to speak up.
- I’m not very creative.
- I don’t know how to do [specific skill].
- I thrive on structure, and that can make change a bit difficult.
- I love having my finger in many different pies.
With each of these, you can come up with a solution. If you don’t have a solution in mind, pick something else. The hiring manager doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of fixing you.
For more examples, check out our guide to talking about strengths and weaknesses in an interview.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your weakness best answer?
The best answer is a weakness that you have and your solution for it. You don’t have to be perfect at it, but you do need a plan to overcome it.
What was your biggest failure?
Unlike your weakness question, this doesn’t need to be ongoing. This should be work-related (not your failed marriage or your alcoholism), and you need to explain what you learned from it–even if the interviewer doesn’t ask.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Make sure you give both sides of this! Your strengths should be job-specific and will help you land this job. Don’t exaggerate. You’re probably not the fastest coder in the country nor the best public speaker, but you can say these things are strengths.
Even though a hiring manager may not be asking you the best question, make sure you’re prepared to give the best answer. And now that you’re prepared for your interview, it’s time to apply for jobs. Start applying for jobs today on ZipRecruiter!