Weaknesses: How to Talk About Them in Your Interview

At some point during your interview, you may be asked about your weaknesses. This is a common interview subject, and it’s important to prepare an answer so you can give a compelling answer.

What are weaknesses?

Weaknesses are habits, personality traits or a lack of technical skills that may interfere with a candidate’s ability to effectively perform the tasks or responsibilities of a job. For example, lack of experience is a common weakness for many entry-level applicants.

Common weaknesses that are discussed in interviews include:

  • Focusing on details too much or not enough
  • Lacking confidence or being afraid to take risks
  • Lack of experience
  • Impatience
  • Difficulty letting go of a project
  • Perfectionism

How to talk about your weaknesses in your interview

When preparing an answer to a question about weaknesses, it’s crucial that you prepare your full answer. Preparing your answer ahead of time lets you carefully select a weakness and put context around it.

Follow these steps to create compelling talking points before your interview.

1. Select a nonessential but relevant weakness

Choose a weakness that won’t impede your potential performance. For example, being shy when you are applying for a sales role is a critical weakness. But shyness may be less important if you are applying for an accounting role. At the same time, your should select a weakness that is applicable to the position you’re applying for so your interviewer receives the information they need. If you are interviewing for multiple roles, formulate an answer that is tailored to each job description.

2. Demonstrate self-awareness

Talking about your weaknesses candidly can demonstrate honesty and self-awareness. If you have a weakness that is apparent to your interviewers from your resume, such as a lack of experience, addressing it reduces its negative impact. Being forthright also demonstrates a positive characteristic, no matter what weakness you are discussing.

Following a simple framework will help you talk about your weaknesses:

  1. Clearly state your weakness.
  2. Give more detail about your weakness so your audience has a specific context.
  3. Use an story or example that features your weakness in a nonharmful way.

Example: ‘Sometimes, I can be a perfectionist. When I take on new tasks and responsibilities, I can overanalyze the instructions or spend too much time proofreading my work. When I was managing a redesign of an order form template, I spent a lot of time rereading the boilerplate text and testing the automated modifications. While the project finished on time, I realized I spent a lot of time worrying about small details that had already been completed.’

This answer clearly demonstrates a weakness that is relevant to many jobs. The negative consequences of the weakness are authentic sounding but may not be a critical concern for employers. It also demonstrates the candidate’s awareness of their weakness and its ramifications.

3. Frame your weaknesses as positives

Some weaknesses can also be considered positives. Characteristics such as being focused too much on details or being afraid to take risks sound negative, but they can be important attributes in the right position. While you can minimize the harms of these weaknesses and even highlight them as strengths, it’s important to describe your weaknesses in a way that doesn’t sound disingenuous or contrived. Acknowledge the potential negatives clearly, and then end your answer by discussing positives uses.

Example: ‘In the past, I have been hesitant to take risks. I worried about the unforeseen consequences of taking on a large project. When a former employer was considering moving the database to the cloud, I was concerned about potential security issues and the business cost of outages. I insisted that we put numerous security measures in place throughout the transition. This delayed the project, but there were no security breaches.’

Delayed deadlines are a potential consequence of many weaknesses, and stating that shows honesty. However, the candidate demonstrates that the weakness positively impacted the success of the project. The answer also emphasizes the candidate’s ability to prioritize security over speed.

4. Frame your weaknesses as obstacles you can overcome

Instead of framing a weakness as a positive, prepare an answer that shows improvement. Discussing a key weakness and the steps you have taken to overcome it shows self-awareness and growth. It helps communicate that you are willing to grow and learn. Weaknesses such as inattention to detail or lack of experience can be a challenge to frame as strengths, but they can help you show your commitment to self-improvement.

Example: ‘I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience using Salesforce. My previous employer used a different CRM platform that I wasn’t familiar with. In order to make sure I did my work correctly, I took several training courses and learned how to use the software. I understand that you are looking for a candidate who is already familiar with Salesforce, but I am willing to invest the time into learning how it works.’

This answer clearly states a weakness. Then the answer describes how the candidate overcame their weakness—a lack of technical skill. The candidate also tells the interviewer how they will overcome the weakness in the role they’re currently applying for.