“What’s your greatest weakness?” is the question that no one ever quite knows how to answer. This is probably the most awkward and dreaded part of a job interview. Everyone has weaknesses, but no one wants to admit them honestly in a job interview. The best way to handle this question is to name non-essential skills as your weakness, and emphasize how you’ve improved (or plan to improve). Select a weakness and come up with a solution or a plan to overcome it. Also, focus only on professional weakness, because no one what’s to hear about your personal mess.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

While it may feel like your interviewer is just looking for a list of reasons not to hire you, there are actually deeper logical reasons behind this question! Employers aim to assess your character and personality during the interview; and they want to see that you are willing to face your weaknesses and work hard to improve them.

Mostly importantly, the interviewers are trying to study your level of self-awareness and whether you can analyze your own shortcomings objectively. They want to check that you don’t have any obvious flaws that may affect your ability to carry out the role in question. And lastly, by throwing this awkward question at you, interviewers are also evaluating your ability to respond to difficult questions under pressure.

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This Question May Also Come in Disguise

This question can also be asked in many different forms, so you need to be prepared for a variety of possibilities, including these:

  • “What would your colleagues or employer describe as your biggest weakness?”
  • “Have any issues or difficulties arisen in your most recent role?”
  • “What is your biggest regret you’ll have on leaving your current role?”
  • “Is there any area of your skill set in particular you feel you still need to work on?”
  • What is your weakness?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What are your weakest areas?
  • What are your weakest skills?
  • What do you consider to be your weaknesses?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would your current boss say is your weakest area?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.

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Discuss Non-Job-Required Skills

One approach to answering this question is to analyze the key skills and strengths required for the position you are interviewing for and then come up with an honest shortcoming which is not directly related to the essential skills required for success in that job.

For example, if you are applying for a nursing job, you could share your difficulty with public speaking or presentation. In this case, public speaking and presentation skills are not highly relevant with the job; you could provide examples of your difficulty with presentations to large groups. In addition, you can emphasize your strength in one-on-one communication with patients instead.

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Mention How You’ve Improved It 

Another option is to discuss skills that you have improved upon during your previous jobs. This way, you prove to the interviewer that you are the type of person who can face a weakness directly and make improvements when necessary. You can present to the employers your initial struggle, discuss the steps you have taken to improve this area, and then reference your current, improved level of skill.

If you use this strategy be sure not to mention anything that is required for the job that you are interviewing for. You don’t want your qualifications for the job to be questioned.

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