Interviewing: What’s Your Weakness?


Photo by Eszter

Photo by Eszter

What’s Your Weakness?

Ah…The dreaded interview question. What should you say? Do you tell them that you’re a perfectionist? What if they ask “Why is that a weakness?” Then, if you’re nervous, you may be compelled to go on and on about the time you were in charge of a project, but couldn’t let it go because you were so involved in the details…It went way over budget and was late because you couldn’t put it to bed. A good weakness to describe for an interview? Not so much.

There are several keys to this question.

  1. You should be prepared to answer it. If you’re caught off-guard, you just look ill-prepared.
  2. You need to come up with a weakness that has NOTHING to do with the job.
  3. You must demonstrate how you are striving to improve your skill in the “weak” area.

For example, a computer programmer whose job it is to sit at a computer and work magic might say:

“I have to admit that I am a bit nervous speaking in front of very large crowds. However, I’m considering joining Toastmaster’s and I’ve been doing some reading about how to be better at public speaking, as it is a skill I’d like to practice and improve.”

Why is this a great answer in this case?

  • Public speaking in front of very large crowds is not part of this applicant’s potential work duties.
  • Most people are nervous speaking in front of very large crowds, so even if speaking may ever unexpectedly come up in this job, it wouldn’t be unusual to have this weakness.

If the job involved frequent presentations, this would not be a good choice for a weakness.

So, the trick to this question:

  • Be prepared to answer it.
  • Describe that you are trying to improve in the “weak” area.
  • Whatever you do, don’t expand on the weakness or give more information than necessary. Be brief and to the point.

Or, you can give an answer my former boss mentioned to me…(Use only with careful discretion):

What’s your greatest weakness?

Look them straight in the eye, smile and say, “Chocolate.”

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8 Responses to “Interviewing: What’s Your Weakness?”


  1. 1 Job Search Engines May 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

    My weakness is not being able to hide my nervousness

  2. 2 Kate Hutchinson May 12, 2008 at 11:37 am

    The Chocolate answer is cute, but would only work if you can tell your interviewer has a sense of humor. Since sense of humor in a supervisor is of great importance to me, I often try to work in a facetious answer somewhere. Sometimes, if the interviewer just starts off with ‘Tell me about yourself,’ I begin with “I’m a Sagittarius and I enjoy long walks on the beach… but seriously, I’m an organizational machine who can put your Annual Fund to work for you.”

  3. 3 Miriam Salpeter May 12, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Nervousness is a tricky one. I think that being prepared is the best answer to nerves. If you can approach a task knowing that you’ve done your homework, it can be easier to control nerves.

    @ Kate – I agree…You wouldn’t want to use the chocolate answer without some insight into your interviewer. I wouldn’t suggest it as your “prepared” answer…Always have a back-up plan. Your plan to make the interview work for you (finding out if your interviewer has a sense of humor) is good. I’d hesitate to start out an interview too glib, but as long as you know that you wouldn’t want to work for someone who’d balk at that approach, you have nothing to lose!

  4. 4 James Feudo May 12, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Miriam,

    This is by far one of the most common interview questions – and one of the trickiest to answer. Your tips are excellent – especially about making it something not related to your job. Your examples are great too.

    Great info,

    James
    http://blog.jvf.com

  5. 5 Miriam Salpeter May 13, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    James – Thanks for your kind words! I am convinced that interviewers ask this question just to be sure that the candidate prepared and didn’t take the interview for granted!

  6. 6 Candice September 20, 2008 at 8:20 am

    My greatest weakness is that I get frustrated easily, especially when I don’t learn a new job as quickly as I think I should.

  7. 7 Samaira November 1, 2008 at 6:19 am

    Great job. I think i have come across the best tips for approaching such an intimidating question in an interview in an easy way.

  8. 8 elsa obciana November 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

    my weakness i guess is always being nervous every time i’ am applying for a job.i usually get nervous and get my knees shake..and often lead me getting mental blocked but still i never let it hinder my desire to get the job i still do my best to answer all the question as confident as i could…and when it comes to my strength i would say that being optimistic, considering always positive in anything that i do i can also add being a good listener and adviser at the same time.i will try to apply in a call center company and this is one of the question iam preparing to answer.Would these work?


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