How To Answer What Are Your Weaknesses

Talking about your weakness during a job interview it’s not something you would want to do. You are supposed to be selling yourself, after all, and enumerating your negative characteristics and the not-so-good side of your personality defeats the purpose.

But the question what are your weaknesses has become a cliché, and interviewers continue to ask it even if they know they are unlikely to get an answer that is 100% honest. So why do they even bother?

3 Reasons Interviewers Ask About Your Weaknesses

1. They are trying to get a sense of what you really are like as an employee. They want to get past that nice and presentable facade that you have shown to them. In other words, they want to see the good, the bad and the ugly side of you.

2. They want to test your honesty and self-awareness. So, yes, a dishonest response could cost you a particular job opportunity. Before going to an interview, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and just be aware of yourself.

3. They want to find out if you’re seeking ways to improve yourself. If you’re fully aware of your weakness, what are you doing to become better or to turn things around?

Similar Questions That Mean the Same Thing

An interviewer doesn’t always ask “what is your greatest weakness”. The question can come in many shape and form, and you should be able to tell when a question deserves the answer that you have been rehearsing.

  • What areas are your weakest?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
  • What would your previous boss say about areas that you need to improve?
  • Is there a development goal that you have set?
  • What do you want to improve in the next year?

Mistakes to Avoid When Responding to Such an Aggravating and Dreaded Question

Turning a Negative Into a Positive.

    • I am a workaholic.
    • I care too much about my job.
    • My being a perfectionist sometimes gets in the way.

This is probably the oldest trick in the book that used to work, but not anymore. It is a clever idea, but an interviewer can see right through it. Time to change the tune, then.

Refusing To Respond To The Question.
Saying “I don’t know” or nothing at all is the wrong thing to do. Doing so gives several impressions. One, you are unprepared and promptly froze up when asked the question. Two, you are afraid to say the wrong thing. Lastly, you are hiding something, like a major flaw or a problem with previous employers.

Giving An Answer That Raises Red Flags.

  • I work too hard sometimes that my personal life suffers.
  • I am not a morning person.

Answers such as these may come off as honest, but could cost you the job. No employer would want an employee who doesn’t have work-life balance. Someone who is not a morning person may have a hard time getting up in the morning and coming to work on time. No one wants this either.

Going Into Great Detail.
Didn’t they say that saying too much could mean making a lot of mistakes? In revealing your weakness, keep it brief, concise and neutral. If you prepare a rehearsed answer, going into detail may give you away. Most importantly, don’t sound overly negative or defensive, as this could give a wrong impression. Remember hiding something?

How To Properly Answer The Question What Are Your Weaknesses

Take the STAR Approach
ST – Situation or Task
Talk about a particular situation or tasks where your weakness showed. Make sure to keep it professional rather than personal. Who cares if you have a weakness for chocolate? Unless, of course, if it’s relevant to the job.

  • I used to have problems in the past in delivering quality deliverables on time because I was stretching myself too thin. I tend to take on too many projects.
  • I used to have trouble coping with stress and pressure at work.

A – Action
After reviewing your weakness, tell the interviewer about the action you took to deal with the problem.

  • I categorized my work according to priority, and then cut back on some of the less important extracurricular activities. This way, I was able to deliver core projects with the highest quality.
  • I enrolled myself in a time management course to find ways to reduce my stress, and to help me organize myself and my work.

R – Results
With the actions taken and the changes you made, talk about the positive results that followed.

  • I was able to tackle key deliverables and complete them on schedule. This also helped me improve the timing and quality of my work.
  • With my newfound ability to deal with stress and cope with pressure at work I am happier with my job and more engaged.

With the STAR approach, you can cover what most interviewers would do:

  • Ask about your weakness.
  • Make a follow-up question about what you are doing about your weakness.
  • Ask you to tell more about it.

But How Do You Pick a Weakness That Is “Good”?

  • Choose a weakness that won’t be considered a major handicap for the job that you are applying for. As an accountant, for example, avoid talking about your lack of attention to detail. This can have a negative impact on you.
  • Choose a weakness that can be fixed or relatively minor. The examples above may seem major, but they are “fixable”. So select a negative attribute that can be remedied with the use of a STAR approach.

Fixable: I easily get nervous when talking to a crowd.
Hard to Fix: I am very shy and stutters when speaking in front of a crowd.

Important Note

Unless the interviewer specifies that they only want you to give one weakness, you should have at least two weaknesses in mind. It is important that you would have an answer when they say, “what else”?
Job interviews can be tricky, but with preparation, confidence and honesty, you are likely to ace it.