How to Answer: What is Your Biggest Weakness? Interview Question

"What is your greatest weakness?" It's a question interviewers love and candidates hate - with good reason. "Tricky"...

"What is your greatest weakness?"

It's a question interviewers love and candidates hate - with good reason. "Tricky" questions like this allow recruiters and interviewers to sort and rank candidates without having to do a lot of work. On many occasions, the potential candidate takes care of that for them.


You see, there is a "correct" answer to this question, but most candidates fail to give it. Those who succeed end up with one foot in the company and those who do not end up thanking and not hearing any response.


This is when the real question is, how do you answer "correctly" the question that asks you about your weaknesses in an interview? This guide will explain step by step on how to do it and much more. We will cover:

  • The two most common mistakes candidates make when discussing their weaknesses in an interview (I'll even give you some examples of what  not to do)
  • The formula for mastering your answer to the question "What is your greatest weakness?" every time they do it (with examples of different weaknesses)
  • A comprehensive list of weaknesses that you can use and implement in the formula and put together an answer that will stump your interviewer

If you're ready to turn this answer from a question that makes you doubt your worth to a question that will land you a job offer, read on!

Two Big Mistakes People Make When They Respond To "What's Your Biggest Weakness?"

When it comes to talking about our weaknesses in a job interview, candidates often fall into one of two possible traps:

  • They try to mention a skill that they think the interviewer wants to hear (for example, "I work a lot")
  • They are very honest about some weakness

Let's start with the first bullet. While the idea of ​​turning a "weakness" into a skill or strength is good, it is definitely NOT the right way to do it. Companies tend to figure out what candidates are trying to do when they take this route and it can usually sound pedantic or unprofessional. Here are some examples of bad answers in this category:

Bad Answer Example # 1

My biggest weakness is definitely the fact that I work a lot. In my previous job, my boss had to implement a rule in which I had to leave the office at 7 pm because I usually stayed until 9 pm, which yes, is that I win the award for the highest rating of sales like this that maybe it was not in vain, right?


Bad Answer Example # 2

My biggest weakness is probably wanting to do more than I have to. I love learning new things, helping my colleagues and always being on the sidelines of innovation. I usually understand and learn my role quickly, which allows me to take on other projects. Strangely, I can feel like I have a lot on my plate but I always have time for more!

In the first example, our candidate is trying to show that he loves his job and that if he is hired he will give everything for the company and will be an employee who dedicates hours and hours to work as well as achieving good results. However, your message sounds a bit arrogant.


In the second, the candidate is trying to show that they love doing more than they should, getting involved in new situations, and overcoming challenges. And yes, companies love this however, they will analyze this answer and discover a person who gives his life and soul to work which will reduce his performance.


Now let's talk about the following mistake which is very common and many candidates make - oversharing.

Job Interview Comic - The Wrong Weakness For Interviews

If you are looking to land a sales position and talking to strangers is not your thing, you may not want to share that with your interviewers. Sure, it's a weakness, but highlighting it will automatically disqualify you from the job. Here are two bad examples of people who were very honest:

Bad Example # 1

My biggest weakness is that I get paralyzed when I have to talk to someone I don't know. To be honest, I was scared to death the moment I walked into the room to talk to you - but you have been very nice, thank you - but yes, I was very nervous a little while ago. I really don't feel comfortable in those situations. But I am working on it.


Bad Example # 2

My biggest weakness is probably leaving for tomorrow what I have to do today. I've never been good when it comes to planning and scheduling my schedules, school / my previous job and I always finish everything at the last minute. That said, I've only missed a couple of deadlines - I'm very good at working under pressure. Not long ago I read an article that said that many people work better when they are under pressure. I operate a bit like this.

It is a bit painful to read those examples don't you think?


When you start a job at a new company, you will meet MANY people, people you have ever seen - colleagues, clients, competitors, etc. If your company thinks that you are paralyzed and you become a little weird, how can you be part of its culture or add value to the company if you cannot talk to customers who bring income to it? Example # 1 is going to put your resume in the trash.


Example # 2 sounds a bit like the popular kid at school who never studied but still got good grades. Even if you are able to work like this in your professional life, it is better to keep it to yourself. Companies are looking for someone who is organized and who works early so that their expectations are met.


Now I am going to teach you the correct way to frame your weakness so that it does not question your ability and that the interviewer loses interest in you.


How to Answer "What is your greatest weakness?" In an interview

When it comes to constructing the best possible answer to this question in an interview, we have to think about the opportunities that our answer can afford us. How can we use it to proactively handle objections, highlight specific expertise, and prove our worth?

I mentioned earlier that it's not too bad to turn one of your weaknesses into a strength during an interview - that's exactly what we're going to do, but we'll do it in a way that we can impress our interviewer (instead of sounding arrogant or unprofessional). In order to do that, we have to follow this 5-step formula:

  1. Pick a challenge / difficulty you've been trying to improve on
  2. Describe how this difficulty has been a real challenge for you in the past.
  3. Talk about the actions you have taken to improve
  4. Present the results you have obtained thanks to your actions
  5. Talk about how others have recognized your progress
This is why it works.

We start by citing a weakness and we certainly explain how it has impacted us in the past. For example, it may be that speaking in public terrifies you which prevented you from giving your opinions or ideas in work meetings and when trying to communicate your message to the client.

There will be no problem, we are all human and we have weaknesses, but we will not end there. Instead, we are going to continue with a statement about the actions you have taken to stand out and overcome that fear. To start with, you hired a public speaking instructor to help you better understand this problem and to give you the necessary tools to work on it. Afterward, you spoke to your supervisor and asked if you could have 10 minutes each month to present a topic to the team in public.

Cool! You recognized that you have a weakness but also that you have already started working to improve. Your interviewer will feel happy that you have initiative and desire to overcome obstacles. But that is not all. Finally, you are going to highlight the results you have obtained thanks to your hard work as well as any type of recognition you have received from others.

After speaking in front of your team a couple of times, you felt ready to take the stage. You raised your hand and led a proposal to one of the largest and most important prospects the company has ever had. That day, you impressed them all. The prospect signed a contract for $ 5.25 million annually and your company recognized you for having achieved the biggest contract of the year!

Boom!

That answer shows your interviewer that you are sincere and honest with yourself to acknowledge your weaknesses but also that you have the guts and commitment to improve and are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone to grow. What company wouldn't want to hire someone like that?

Sample Answers For "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"


Now let's follow that bullet point formula mentioned above and turn it into a template that you can rehearse and repeat before your next interview:

«Greatest Weakness» Interview Response Template
In the past, [Weakness] has been a great challenge for me. It made me very nervous every time I had to [Weakness] . I realized that this was decreasing my productivity and progress as an individual and as a professional so I decided [Action You Took To Improve] . After a couple of months working on it, I can proudly say that [Weakness] is something that I now enjoy. Recently, [Highlights Obtained Results] and my colleagues even [Includes Colleague Testimony].

Here's how we would do it using the public speaking example mentioned above:

""Greatest Weakness"" Sample Response # 1 - Public Speaking
In the past, public speaking was always a great challenge for me. I got too nervous every time I knew to have to get up and raise my voice in front of a group of people. I realized that this is slowing my performance and progress both as a professional and as an individual so I decided to do something about it.

I hired a public speaking instructor and asked my supervisor to give me 10 minutes to present a topic at each of our monthly team meetings. After a couple of months working on it, I can say that now I even enjoy it.

Recently, I led a meeting where I presented a project to one of our largest potential clients in the last 5 years. There was a lot of pressure and it was important to impress the customer. In the end, we were able to close a deal for $ 5.25 million annually. After we succeeded, our sales agent told me that it was my presentation that made the client decide. We couldn't have done it without my contribution!

Here's another example using cultural barriers as a weakness:

Sample Response # 2 - Navigating Cultural Barriers
My current company recently expanded its focus of markets in the United States solely to Japan. As you probably know, the professional culture of Japan is completely different from what we are used to here in the United States and it took me a little time and work to adjust.

During the first months of the expansion, I was sent to Japan to meet with prospective clients. I did not read or do much research before arriving as I usually do very well with our domestic clients and I proceeded to meet the first two meetings. Both companies stopped talking after my visit. I couldn't understand what I did wrong.

At first, I blamed the companies and their "strange" way of doing business, but after some reflection, I realized that much of the problem was my fault. To better understand the situation, I hired a Japanese business instructor who taught me the key differences between American and Japanese culture. I also subscribed to Duolingo to learn a bit about the language and found a dedicated group that I practiced with every week. After months of hard work, I rewarded myself with a two-week personal trip to Japan and used Couchsurfing.com to make the experience as authentic as possible.

After months without contacting the two companies I mentioned at the beginning, I was able to reach a few people and they agreed to meet with me again. At the end of the meetings, we sign them as clients. Eventually they became critical pieces for the expansion of our company.

Finally, this is a third example with someone struggling with not having the "appropriate experience" for a developer position:

Sample Response # 3 - Not Having The "Appropriate Experience"
In the past, my biggest weakness has been not having a traditional computer science and development background. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology from university and have worked as an account manager for the last 3 years. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but development is truly one of my greatest passions.

Twelve months ago, I started teaching myself to code. I used basic resources and tools like Free Code Camp and spent hours on Stack Exchange every day. Then I started creating apps that help users solve personal problems, which forced me to expand my knowledge to new languages ​​and APIs.

Recently, I launched an app called Forest which helps users maintain a healthy relationship with their cell phone. The app allows you to plant a tree and let it grow for a period of time in which your phone is locked. If they unlock it, the tree dies. I promoted the app via Medium, various posts, and Reddit. It currently has more than 10,000 active users per month.

Even though my background and experience is not traditional, I know this is what I should do with my professional life and I would love the opportunity to learn more from the great team of developers at your company.

Can you see how well this example sounds by accepting your weakness but highlighting that you have conquered your fears and turned them into quantitative results for the company? That is what we are looking for.

List of Weaknesses You Can Use In Your Answer


So far, we have used some answers as examples and listed some topics that you can use as your weaknesses. If you've read this far and still can't think of any weaknesses you can use, I've shared a list of examples below that you can modify and use with the template above:



Now you know the "correct" way to answer the question, "What is your greatest weakness?" and thus be able to impress your interviewer and get a job offer!


This great article Credit goes to Austin Belcak

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