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“What are your weaknesses?” – This is the challenging query about your shortcomings during a job interview. The prospect of admitting a deficiency is certainly not appealing. The positive news is that you can address the “what are your weaknesses” question without undermining your candidacy. And, just a tip, it doesn’t entail disguising a positive trait as a personal flaw, like claiming to be a perfectionist.

This article will provide:

  • Guidance on identifying weaknesses and strategies for improvement.
  • Insight into what interviewers are looking for when inquiring about weaknesses.
  • Tips on effectively responding to the “what are your weaknesses” job interview question.
  • Examples of strong answers to the “what are your weaknesses” query.

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What weaknesses should you discuss in job interviews?

Keep in mind that the optimal response to the “what are your weaknesses” question should consist of two components:

1. The weakness itself
2. The actions you are taking to address and improve it

Here is a compilation of common “acceptable” weaknesses for a job interview:

1. Teamwork skills-related challenges (difficulty adjusting to new team members, struggles with delegation, reluctance to share responsibility, etc.)
2. Issues with time management or organizational skills (inability to multitask, a preference for a structured plan in spontaneous situations, etc.)
3. Shyness (nervousness about public speaking, limited presentation skills, etc.)
4. Impatience (difficulty sitting still for extended periods, lack of focus, etc.)
5. Weakness in communication skills (writing, active listening, etc.)
6. Tendency to talk excessively, overshare, or possess an unconventional sense of humor
7. Limited proficiency in a particular foreign language

Consider these tactics to improve your weakness:

  • Enroll in a course.
  • Participate in training, whether internally or externally.
  • Join relevant groups or workshops.
  • Engage in volunteer work or activities beyond your job that allow you to apply and improve the weaker skill.
  • Seek guidance from a mentor or advisor.
  • Explore tools designed to address and enhance the identified weakness.

A great answer will have both, with clear examples of how you are on your way to reaching your goal. 

Ask yourself:

  • Was there a noticeable difference in my performance after implementing measures to address a weakness?
  • Have I observed any improvement in my abilities?
  • Can I provide tangible evidence demonstrating that I am actively addressing and resolving my challenges?

What to Do and Not to Do When Asked “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses”

Primarily, this interview inquiry may manifest in various ways:

1. What is your (greatest, biggest) weakness?
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
3. What are your weakest skills?
4. What would your current boss identify as your weakest area?
5. Tell me about a time you failed.
6. Describe a challenging work situation and outline the steps you took to overcome it.

Certain versions of this question may permit you to respond by showcasing strengths to overshadow weaknesses. However, the crucial aspect to grasp is the interviewer’s underlying intent when posing this question. It goes beyond merely uncovering your flaws. When strategizing your responses to the “what are your weaknesses” interview question, you must:

  1. Be truthful and exhibit self-awareness.

Dishonesty is both unwise and entirely ineffective. An exemplary candidate will acknowledge a genuine weakness and elaborate on how they effectively handle it.

  1. Talk about how you’re addressing the issue

An essential aspect of your response to the “what are your weaknesses” question involves demonstrating a commitment to self-improvement. It’s crucial to incorporate specifics about the measures you’re taking to acquire a skill or address a weakness.

  1. Make sure the weakness does not interfere with the job description 

A strong candidate will thoughtfully select a weakness that does not jeopardize the responsibilities of the specific job in question. Consider a sample response from a software designer who acknowledges challenges in communication skills:

CORRECT
I would identify my primary weakness as my writing skills. I have consistently leaned towards technical and mathematical tasks, enjoying number crunching. However, I tend to face challenges and forget language rules when dealing with words. To address this, I’ve incorporated Grammarly into my routine to ensure the accuracy of my emails. The application’s tech-oriented approach makes the entire process more manageable for me.

 

 

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Here’s how not to approach weaknesses for a job interview: 

  1. Disguise a strength as a weakness

Traditionally, we were taught to identify weaknesses for a job interview that hardly resembled actual imperfections. However, employing this old strategy may now have the unintended consequence of coming across as self-promotion.

INCORRECT

When it comes to my weaknesses, well, I’d have to say I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I insist on everything being flawless. Additionally, I’m undeniably a workaholic—I find it hard to resist putting in extra hours. On top of that, I’m excessively focused on organization; everything needs to be tidy and in order, almost like in an advertisement. It can be quite bothersome.

  1. Overshare

You’re not divulging your misdeeds or delving into childhood traumas with a therapist. Certain details are best left unspoken, such as a reluctance to work due to difficulty getting out of bed.

INCORRECT
I have a strong aversion to animals, to the extent that I find myself yelling at my sister’s dog when she’s not present. The origin of this dislike is a particular incident where a seagull snatched a taco from my hand. Since that incident, I haven’t been able to overcome this aversion, and I’m uncertain about how to address it.

  1. Deny you have any weaknesses

Upon encountering the “what are your weaknesses” question, certain candidates may experience a moment of hesitation, causing them to freeze. In a state of panic, they may deny having any weaknesses. This response is considered one of the most detrimental mistakes one can make, unless, of course, you happen to be part of the Avengers or a similar extraordinary entity.

INCORRECT
Weaknesses? What weaknesses? Are you referring to me? That’s a joke! I don’t possess any.

 

What to Do and Not to Do When Asked “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses”

Foremost, this interview inquiry may take different forms, such as:

1. What is your (greatest, biggest) weakness?
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
3. What are your weakest skills?
4. What would your current boss identify as your weakest area?
5. Tell me about a time you failed.
6. Describe a challenging work situation and detail how you overcame it.

Certain variations permit you to respond by highlighting strengths to overshadow weaknesses. However, the crucial aspect is understanding the interviewer’s intent behind this question. It goes beyond merely uncovering flaws in you.

When preparing your responses for the “what are your weaknesses” interview question, you must:

  1. Be honest and demonstrate self-awareness

Dishonesty is unwise and ultimately ineffective. An exemplary candidate will opt for a genuine weakness and elaborate on how they actively address and manage it.

CORRECT
I struggle with accurately estimating the time required to complete tasks, especially underestimating the duration for smaller assignments. This often leads to inadequate time allocation for more substantial projects, forcing me to rush and occasionally miss deadlines. Recognizing this weakness, I’ve enrolled in time management courses at my local community college to proactively address and improve this aspect.

  1. Talk about how you’re addressing the issue

A crucial aspect of your response to the “what are your weaknesses” question involves demonstrating a commitment to self-improvement. It’s essential to incorporate specific details about the measures you’re taking to acquire a skill or rectify a weakness.

CORRECT

I have two primary weaknesses. Firstly, I struggle with sharing responsibilities, and secondly, I have a tendency to desire control. Particularly in group projects, I find it challenging to trust others with tasks I believe I can handle better. Consequently, when sharing a task, I become impatient if I suspect the other person isn’t performing it correctly. Recognizing these weaknesses, I have openly discussed them with my supervisor, expressing a desire to improve. Together, we have established a timeline and specific goals for me to achieve. I have proactively enrolled in various team-building workshops and joined a volunteer group to enhance my ability to trust and delegate. My supervisor has acknowledged and commended my progress in these areas.

  1. Make sure the weakness does not interfere with the job description 

An effective candidate will thoughtfully select a weakness that does not compromise the requirements of the specific job in question. Consider an example response from a software designer, acknowledging challenges in certain communication skills:

CORRECT
I consider my primary weakness to be my writing skills. I have consistently been inclined towards technical and mathematical aspects, enjoying the process of crunching numbers. However, I often find myself tongue-tied and forgetful of language rules when dealing with words. To address this, I have incorporated Grammarly into my routine to ensure the accuracy of my emails. The application’s tech-oriented approach has made the entire process more comfortable for me.

Here’s how not to approach weaknesses for a job interview: 

  1. Disguise a strength as a weakness

For an extended period, we were conditioned to identify weaknesses for a job interview that scarcely resembled genuine imperfections. However, employing this traditional approach may now backfire and give the impression of self-promotion.

INCORRECT
As for my weaknesses, well, to begin with, I’m an extreme perfectionist. I insist on everything being flawless. Additionally, I undeniably tend to overwork; I find it challenging to resist putting in extra hours. Moreover, I am excessively fixated on organization; everything needs to be tidy and perfectly arranged, akin to an advertisement. It can be quite bothersome.

  1. Overshare

You’re not divulging your sins or delving into childhood traumas with your therapist. Some matters are better left unspoken, such as a persistent inclination to skip work due to difficulty getting out of bed.

INCORRECT
I strongly dislike animals. My aversion is so intense that I shout at my sister’s dog when she’s not present to witness it. The reason behind my dislike remains unclear. I suspect it stems from an incident where a seagull snatched a taco from my hand. Since that occurrence, I haven’t been able to shake off the impact, and I’m unsure how to address it.

  1. Deny you have any weaknesses

Upon encountering the “what are your weaknesses” question, some candidates may experience a moment of hesitation, panicking and denying the existence of any weaknesses. Taking this approach is considered one of the gravest mistakes one can make, unless, of course, you happen to be part of the Avengers or a similar exceptional entity.

INCORRECT
Weaknesses? What weaknesses? Are you referring to me? That’s a joke! I don’t possess any.

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How to Answer the “What Are Your Weaknesses” Interview Question 

Describing strengths is a breeze compared to acknowledging your own weaknesses. Here’s a method based on a real-life example:

1. Compile a list of potential weaknesses
Begin by identifying your personal and professional weaknesses before the interview. You can refer to the insights from the previous chapter or pose questions to yourself such as:

– Is there a task or work-related skill that I don’t enjoy/don’t perform well/don’t possess?
– Can I recall a work-related failure and the subsequent correction?
– Has my supervisor ever highlighted an area for improvement, followed by praise once addressed?
– Did anyone critique my approach to work?
– Have I experienced any academic weaknesses or challenges during my studies?

2. Examine the job advertisement
Subsequently, analyze the job offer. Identify the key skills required. For instance, consider the following example from a restaurant server job offer:

Key skills include:

1. Punctuality
2. Positive attitude
3. Ability to maintain professionalism in a fast-paced environment and multitask
4. Teamwork
5. Fast learning and diligence
6. Good listening skills and the ability to comply with instructions

Now, with both lists in hand, examine them collectively. When addressing the “what are your weaknesses” question, it’s crucial to refrain from aligning your weaknesses with the skills outlined in the job offer. Instead, opt for weaknesses that are not critical for the job, as demonstrated below:

CORRECT
One significant weakness of mine is my difficulty in sitting still and maintaining focus for prolonged periods. I’ve never been inclined towards prolonged reading sessions; instead, I’ve always gravitated towards athletics and hands-on activities. To ensure academic success and maintain good grades, I established study goals. I would dedicate thirty minutes to focused study on test materials and then reward myself with a break to engage in physical activity or socialize. This system instilled discipline in me and improved my ability to concentrate. As a result, I graduated from high school with honors and am currently pursuing college education on an athletic scholarship.

  1. Craft a perfect answer that also shows strengths

One of the best pieces of interview advice is using the STAR method. It’s an effective way to demonstrate that your measures are working. And don’t just use it for the what are your weaknesses question—you can use it to answer just about any typical interview question!

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result:

Situation: You start by explaining a situation requiring you to solve a problem, use a skill, or develop a new idea.

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result:

 

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