The Right (And Wrong) Ways To Share Your Greatest Weakness In A Job Interview

"What is your greatest weakness?" might be the most difficult question asked in job interviews. When it comes to curating the perfect answer, it's important to assess a weakness, stray from clichés, and emphasize your ability to improve. It can be easy to use the greatest weakness question as an opportunity to emphasize your strengths ("I'm a perfectionist," or "I work too hard," for example), but that will only deter your chances of getting the job. Vulnerability and openness are essential characteristics to have, especially when it comes to the workplace and landing your dream job.


You should always be on alert for red flags in a job interview or prepared with an engaging "tell me about yourself"' answer, but having a greatest weakness up your sleeve can help seal the deal. Rather than recycling unoriginal, clichéd answers, there are better ways to navigate the question. Your best answer will be something truthful yet efficient, and that starts with jotting down a list of objective workplace preferences. To get you started, are you a numbers person? Do you fixate on the structure of words? Are you a visual learner? How are you in teams? With these answers in mind, you're on your way to the ultimate answer to the most challenging interview question.

Identify a skill listed in the job description, but be careful

Before you begin brainstorming, carefully read the job description and identify one quality that you've worked hard to improve. For example, a job poster might say they're looking for someone detail-oriented. You can talk about a time when you missed a deadline because you were too focused on the details of a project, but you've been able to improve that weakness by creating a new way to monitor your time management. You'll identify a weakness while highlighting your quick learning skills, and that will stand out to a recruiter or manager who's looking for honesty.


If the job description contains general descriptors like "being able to juggle multiple tasks," get specific and identify moments when you struggled with time management and had to learn how to efficiently organize your tasks. You can also tie one of these general descriptors back to another one, like your improved time management skills leaving you with extra time to familiarize yourself with project guidelines. Reframing the question to address what is asked of you while incorporating your strengths into the answer will likely impress your interviewer.

Be careful, though. It's important not to state a job requirement as one of your weaknesses, but rather as a skill you've worked hard to refine. Instead, look out for descriptions under "preferred qualifications" or "required skills." Choose your words with caution — it could mean the difference between a job offer or rejection.


Use effective examples

A general rule of thumb for any job interview question is to back up your statements with efficient examples. If you're answering to your greatest weakness, you should give a few examples of times when your weakness got the best of you, how you identified it as a weakness, and how you moved forward (i.e. tying it back to improvement). You can go even further by explaining the impact your improvement had on the company or project you were working on, with more examples to back up your claims. If you're a numbers-oriented person, use data to signify improvement. "My efficient improvement raised revenue by 20%," or "After fixing my mistake, I was able to grow the customer database by 10%." 


It's best to work off skills that can be easily fixed through training or other methods of improvement. For example, skills like public speaking, data organization, and collaborative brainstorming are a few qualities that can be learned on the job or refined through training and experience. On the other hand, qualities that are rooted in personality will be harder to talk your way out of, which might speak poorly to your character. Choosing simple qualities will give you more room to speak positively about yourself.

Don't end there, follow up with a question

Curiosity will never fail you. Once you've given your answer, have a follow-up question in mind; especially one that speaks to your desire to improve. Some ideas include "What's the most common challenge new hires struggle with at this company?" or "How does onboarding directly address common weaknesses?" Your interviewer will likely be impressed that you're curious enough to ask these questions ahead of time, as well as showcase your eagerness for the role (a huge score with recruiters!). After all, the purpose of the strengths vs. weaknesses question is to understand a potential hire's capabilities, responsibility, and quality of character.


Above all, it's important to speak concisely with efficiency, not overemphasize a single weakness, and always follow up with something positive or inquisitive. Mastering the art of job interviews isn't easy, but each experience prepares you for the next one. You'll have a solid set of answers in no time, and it will lead you to a job that's best suited for you.