Interview Questions: What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

By Robert Half on June 24, 2015 at 1:51pm

If you were to ask job candidates about the most dreaded interview questions, “What is your greatest weakness?” would be a strong contender for the top spot. Here’s what to say when faced with this common question.

Every candidate’s goal when interviewing is to land the job. So, it would seem counterproductive to disclose that you’re a lousy speller, struggle with time management or are math-challenged. However, that’s just what hiring managers want you to do when they ask, “What is your greatest weakness?” Interview questions like this one help give interviewers a sense of who you really are and what they can expect if you join their team.

How to answer "What is your greatest weakness?"

Practice, practice, practice. You know you’re likely to hear this question over and over again when interviewing, so take the time to rehearse what you want to say in front of friends and family.

Avoid clichés. “I’m a perfectionist” and “I care too much about my work” sound sappy and untruthful. Hiring managers hear these type of responses all the time.

Be honest. Don’t just say what you think the interviewer wants to hear. When you're asked, "What is your greatest weakness?" share a real weakness. This is an opportunity to show your sincerity and to give your employer a sense of your work style.

But don't go too far.With just a little thought, you should be able to name a genuine weakness without focusing on some attribute essential to the job you're applying for. If you'll be expected to use a particular skill on your first day on the job, don't cast doubt on your ability to do so.

Consider what your references might say. If asked the same question about you, would your references likely mention the same weakness? When your references' impressions of you line up with what you've said in your job interview, an employer will see that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses and are well positioned to continue growing professionally.

Look for the positive. Once you’ve admitted your weakness, talk about how you’re working to overcome it. For example, “It can be a real struggle keeping up with all of the paperwork arriving on my desk and staying organized, but I’ve found that investing in new systems to organize my desk has helped a lot.”

Choose your answer wisely. If you really give this question some thought, you will probably be able to come up with several different answers. Be strategic, and select the answer that allows you to showcase your growth and development as a professional. (This advice applies not only to "what is your greatest weakness?" but to all interview questions you should prepare for.)

Hiring managers are impressed with job candidates who show the ability to overcome challenges. When asked "What is your greatest weakness," consider the question an opportunity to tell a story about yourself that will persuade the interviewer that you are a superior candidate for the job.

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