Answering the ‘Weakness’ Interview Question

Answering the ‘Weakness’ Interview Question

A common interview question is ‘What are your weaknesses?’ You may be asked to give just one, or maybe to list three weaknesses. Employers ask this to get a fuller picture of the applicant, and possibly to establish whether the candidate would have any training and development needs were they to be offered the position.

This is always a tough question to answer, as suggesting you don’t have any weaknesses could be perceived as naïve or arrogant. However, admitting to weaknesses may affect the chances of you being offered the job.

Some ways you might therefore consider answering such a question include:

  • Giving an irrelevant weakness – here you give a weakness that is unlikely to affect your suitability for the role. One example would be saying you struggle with fine detail when being interviewed for a sales role. Alternatively, you may say that you struggle with public speaking should the role be one where it is unlikely you would need to give too many presentations to large audiences, and where you would instead deal with individual clients
  • Giving a weakness that the interviewer cannot possibly expect you to have mastered – such as saying you are as yet unfamiliar with your prospective new company’s internal procedures and IT systems
  • Turning a negative into a positive – such as saying ‘I am too much of a perfectionist’ or ‘I get too passionate about things’

However, the last of these has become a clichéd answer, and your interviewer may be bored of hearing it.

Instead a recommended approach is to refer to something that was a weakness in the past, but which you have overcome. For example:

  • You may have been somewhat disorganized in the past, but after admitting to this you can then tell the interviewer about your great time management system that you have since implemented
  • You may have struggled to get ideas across in the past, but then you go on to describe how you have adapted your communication style
  • You could say you have struggled with giving verbal presentations, but that with practice you have improved over time
  • You may have struggled at one time to know when to delegate, but that you have learnt from experience how to do this
  • You may have been too direct when giving feedback to subordinates and colleagues, but you have been able to adapt your style of giving feedback

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