- Why employers ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness?‘
- Surprising ways employers ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness?‘
- How to answer, ‘What is your greatest weakness?‘
- Example answers to use in an interview
During job interviews, hiring teams often ask about weaknesses as a way of learning more about the candidate. It is important to prepare for this question so you can deliver a thoughtful, honest answer that impresses your interviewer. In this article, we discuss what employers want to know when they ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ and how best to answer this common interview question.
Why employers ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’
Employers ask this question to determine if you have enough self-awareness to identify areas that need improvement. Your answer to this question can also reveal whether you can talk about your weaknesses honestly and if you have the right qualifications for the job. In other cases, employers pose this question to find out if you have overcome obstacles, if you have the ability to learn from challenges and if you strive to improve yourself.
Surprising ways employers ask, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’
Employers can ask you about your areas of improvements in many different ways instead of simply asking, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ They might state the question differently to prompt a more honest response or to encourage you to focus less on faults and more on improvement. To make sure you are prepared to answer any version of this question, familiarize yourself with a few other ways interviewers might present it.
- Describe your biggest challenge at your last job.
- What would your last supervisor say you struggled most with?
- What do you most want to change about yourself?
How to answer, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’
To prepare an answer to this common question, try brainstorming some of the biggest challenges you have faced at work. Choose a few obstacles that you overcame, and share what you learned from them. You should be able to make your weakness seem positive.
Formulate your answer using the following method:
1. Identify a relevant fault.
You should try to find a weakness that relates to the job but is not a main part of the duties. For example, if you are applying to a job as an accountant, you can say your greatest weakness is learning new technology. This weakness would not automatically disqualify you for an accountant job, yet it demonstrates that you can identify areas where you need improvement.
2. Be honest.
Providing a truthful and straightforward answer will show potential employers that they can trust you. Being honest also demonstrates that you can accept your faults and that you can be forthcoming about any challenges you have encountered. For example, include a short story with your answer to illustrate how your difficulties with learning new technology have affected you in the workplace.
3. Use the STAR method.
This simple strategy can serve as a helpful framework when an interviewer asks about your greatest weakness. Follow these steps:
Situation: Briefly explain the issue you dealt with in a positive, constructive way.
Task: Explain your role in the situation.
Action: Explain the steps you took to resolve or address the situation.
Result: Discuss what you learned and how your actions led to a positive outcome for the business.
Example answers to use in an interview
Use the following examples to create your answers:
Example 1: Weakness in data analysis
‘I have previously struggled with data analysis. As a creative professional, I have focused more on helping businesses tell their stories through writing and design. However, I know that interpreting data is becoming more important in every field. To address this weakness, I started to take data analysis courses online. The courses have helped me incorporate data into my creative process to increase businesses’ brand awareness.’
Example 2: Weakness in communication
‘When I began taking on leadership roles, I realized that my communication skills were lacking. As a leader, I was too direct with my feedback and did not provide constructive criticism for my team. I talked with my supervisor about ways to resolve the issue and attended a training program that offered communication lessons for managers. After completing the program, I started holding daily standups in which I praised members for meeting benchmarks and offered constructive feedback for where we were struggling. My team began to regain their motivation and we are now one of the most productive teams in the company.’
Example 3: Weakness from inefficiency
‘I have strong attention to detail, which can cause me to strive for perfection in everything I do. I was working on a group project and my need for perfection caused me to be late and delayed the rest of the group. After that, I started using a checklist that helped me focus on the important parts of a project. I also started scheduling my time by the hour so I would spend a reasonable amount of time on each section. Since using the checklist and calendar, I have not missed a deadline and my quality of work is still high.’