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What Are Your Weaknesses: Job Interview Answer Examples

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What are your weaknesses?

Yes, the dreaded job weaknesses interview question. The last thing you want to do at an interview is to say that you are bad at something. Good news: you can answer the “what are your weaknesses” job interview question without sabotaging yourself. And—hint—it does NOT involve pretending that being a perfectionist is a personal weakness.

This article will show you:

  • A list of weaknesses and how to improve upon them.
  • What an interviewer wants to hear when they ask for a list of weaknesses.
  • How to answer the “what are your weaknesses” job interview question.
  • The best “what are your weaknesses” example answers.

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If you are looking for more guides to get ready for your interview, check these:

What Are the Weaknesses for Job Interviews (A List and How to Correct Them)

Remember, the best answer to the “what are your weaknesses” question should have two parts:

  1. The weakness
  2. What you’re doing to correct it

best answer to what are your weaknesses

Here’s a list of typical “good” weaknesses for a job interview:

Consider these tactics to improve your weakness:

  • Enroll in a class.
  • Get training (internal/external).
  • Join groups or workshops.
  • Do volunteer work or activity outside of work that uses the weaker skill.
  • Get help from a mentor or advisor.
  • Find tools that help correct the weakness.

A great answer will have both, with clear examples of how you are on your way to reaching your goal. 

Ask yourself:

  • Did your supervisor notice a change after I took measures to correct a weakness?
  • Have I noticed an improvement?
  • Can I prove that I’m fixing my problems with visible results?

Strengths and weaknesses go hand in hand. Need help identifying yours? Read our guides: How to Answer the “What Are Your Strengths?” Interview Question (Examples)and List of Top Strengths to Put on a Resume

What to Do and Not to Do When Asked “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses”

First and foremost, this interview question may come in different forms: 

  • What is your (greatest, biggest) weakness?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your weakest skills?
  • What would your current boss say is your weakest area?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.
  • Describe a difficult work situation and what you did to overcome it. 

Some variations allow you to answer with a display of strength to outweigh the weaknesses, but most importantly, you have to understand the following: what does the interviewer want to find out by asking that question? And no, it’s not just about finding flaws in you. 

While planning your answers for the “what are your weaknesses” interview question, you have to:

  1. Be honest and demonstrate self-awareness

Lying is a bad idea, and it’s absolutely futile. An ideal candidate will choose a real weakness and discuss how they manage it.

RIGHT

I’m not very good at gauging how long a task will take me to finish. I quite often underestimate the time it will take to do smaller jobs. The result is that I don’t allocate enough time to larger, more significant projects. I have to rush to get things done. Sometimes I miss deadlines. I’ve started taking time management courses at my local community college to address the issue.

  1. Talk about how you’re addressing the issue

An important part of your “what are your weaknesses” answer is showing self-improvement. You should include details about the steps you’re taking to learn a skill or correct a weakness.

RIGHT

I have two greatest weaknesses. The first is my inability to share responsibilities. The second is the desire to be in control. I don’t trust others during group projects with work I know I can do better. So, if I have to share a task, I lose my patience when I suspect that the other person isn’t doing it right. I’ve discussed these weaknesses with my supervisor as areas I’d like to improve. We’ve set up a timeline and goals for me to achieve. I’ve enrolled in several team-building workshops and a volunteer group. I’m learning to let go and trust others. My supervisor complimented me on my progress.

  1. Make sure the weakness does not interfere with the job description 

A good candidate will strategically choose a weakness that won’t put the duties of the job in question in jeopardy. Let’s have a look at a sample answer provided by a software designer, where they describe struggling with some communication skills:

RIGHT

I would say my greatest weakness is my writing skills. I’ve always been a technical, math person. I like crunching numbers. But I get tongue-tied and forget the rules when it comes to words. I’ve started using Grammarly to make sure my emails are correct. The app gives the activity a tech feel, making the whole thing more comfortable for me.

Here’s how not to approach weaknesses for a job interview: 

  1. Disguise a strength as a weakness

For the longest time, we were all trained to pick out weaknesses for a job interview that barely even resembled an imperfection. But now, this old trick may have the opposite effect and seem like you’re just showing off.

WRONG

What are my weaknesses? Well, for one thing, I’m such a perfectionist. Everything has to be perfect. Not to mention, I’m a definite workaholic. I just can’t help working overtime. Plus, I’m obsessive about the organization. Everything has to be neat and in place, like in an ad. It’s super annoying.

  1. Overshare

You are not confessing your sins or discussing childhood trauma with your therapist. Some things are better left unsaid (like your unyielding desire to skip work because you can’t get out of bed).

WRONG

I hate animals. I hate animals so much that I yell at my sister’s dog when she isn’t around to hear it. I don’t know why I hate animals so much. I suspect it comes from when a seagull ate my taco. That bird swooped down and ate a taco out of my hand. I’ve never been the same since. I don’t know what to do about it.

  1. Deny you have any weaknesses

Some candidates will hear the “what are your weaknesses” question and freeze. They panic and deny that they have any. Doing so is one of the worst mistakes you can make (unless you’re one of the Avengers or something).

WRONG

Weaknesses? What weaknesses? You mean me? You must be kidding! I don’t have any.

Want to know which skills hiring managers find most important? We’ve got you covered. Read our guide: +30 Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a Resume (Proven Tips)

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How to Answer the “What Are Your Weaknesses” Interview Question [Case Study]

Describing strengths is a piece of cake compared to admitting your own flaws. Here’s how you handle it, based on a real-life example:

  1. Make a list of potential weaknesses

First, you’ll want to list your personal and professional weaknesses before the interview. Refer to the ideas from chapter one, or ask yourself the following: 

  • Is there a task or work-related skill that I don’t like to do/don’t do well/don’t have?
  • Was there a time when I failed at work (and corrected it)?
  • Did my supervisor ever point out that I needed to work on something (and then praise me when I fixed it)? 
  • Did anyone ever criticize me for working in a particular way?
  • Did I ever have any academic weaknesses? Was there anything problematic for me when I was studying?
  1. Study the job ad

Next, go to your job offer. What crucial skills can you single out? Here’s an example of a job offer for a server at a restaurant:

sample job requirements for a restaurant server

Important skills come down to

  • Punctuality
  • Positive attitude
  • Ability to stay professional in a fast-paced environment, multitasking
  • Teamwork
  • Fast learning, diligence
  • Good listening skills, ability to comply with instructions
  1. Compare the lists

Now that you have two lists in place, look at them together. Your answer to the what are your weaknesses question is the only time you’ll want to avoid matching skills from the job offer. You will want to choose weak skills that are not essential for the job, like here:

RIGHT

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I can’t sit still and focus for extended periods of time. I was never a bookworm. I always preferred athletics and hands-on activities. To make sure that I got through school with good grades, I set study goals for myself. I would sit still and focus on test materials for thirty minutes. After, I would reward myself with a break to run around or socialize. The system taught me discipline and helped me focus. I graduated from high school with honors. I am now attending college on an athletic scholarship.

Firstly, the candidate doesn’t disguise the weakness but does mention strengths as they go along. Secondly, it’s obvious what they did to address the weakness (and that the steps led to a successful outcome). 

WRONG

I have anger management issues. I tend to blow up when someone makes me angry or nervous. I guess you can say I’m the opposite of Little Miss Sunshine. Don’t get me wrong. I like people. But I’m a grumpy person. I don’t have a high tolerance for nonsense or stupidity. I’m working on it, though. I’ve been doing volunteer work with seniors to develop patience and empathy. I have a couple of regulars who are as grumpy as me, and we get along fine.

The job offer states that the ideal candidate should be “positive, bubbly, and friendly.” If that’s not you, you’re not qualified for this job. If you’re going to fake it until you make it (i.e., you need the job), don’t mention that you’re Oscar the Grouch. 

  1. Craft a perfect answer that also shows strengths

One of the best pieces of interview advice is using the STAR method. It’s an effective way to demonstrate that your measures are working. And don’t just use it for the what are your weaknesses question—you can use it to answer just about any typical interview question! 

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result:

Situation: You start by explaining a situation requiring you to solve a problem, use a skill, or develop a new idea. 

My greatest weakness is that I talk too much. I am a blabbermouth. I used to get in trouble for talking over my teachers during class.

Task: Next, you explain the action that your job requires in such a situation. 

The principal gave me a warning. She told me that I had to learn to zip it during class, or I would get expelled. So, I had to come up with a way to restrain myself.

Action: After, you describe the action that you took. If it’s different from the required task, you should also explain why you chose a different path. 

I started playing the Quiet Game with my friends. Do you know the game where parents trick children into playing in the car on longer trips? Well, I asked my friends to help me learn to listen more and speak less by playing the Quiet Game with me. They were more than accommodating.

Result: What happened in the end? How did the situation play out once you acted? It’s best here to illustrate successes with numbers and details if you can. Numbers help reinforce the impact that your action had.

I learned to occupy myself with listening. I learned to wait until it was my turn to speak and to cut myself off when I became a senseless motormouth. After a month of shutting myself up, my teachers noticed I was improving. They also suggested that I join the debate team, where I helped the team win State Championships. Now, to prove my new skill, I will stop talking.

Lastly, here’s another example of what a good what are your weaknesses answer could look like:

My greatest weakness is that I am naturally shy and nervous. The result is that I have a difficult time speaking up in groups. Even if I have good ideas, I have trouble asserting them. Often I keep them to myself.

Here the candidate is admitting a common and real weakness. At the same time, it’s not the best answer if the job requires public speaking skills. Make sure you tailor your response to the job description.

Once, I proposed an idea for a project. The project manager shot it down, and I did not protest. The supervisor heard about my idea. It upset him that I didn’t fight harder for it.

Here’s a situation where the candidate’s weakness caused her to fail at work.

I decided that it was time to sign up for speaking classes. I also took some acting classes. The acting classes helped me learn to separate my professional self from my shy self. That helped me a lot.

Now, the candidate talks about her steps to improve her weakness. She took classes that she felt would help relieve her shyness at work.

I stood by my ideas the next time I worked on a project. I spoke up and asked the project manager to take a second look at my proposal. She agreed that my idea was quite good upon reflection. My supervisor noticed the improvement and promoted me to management. I now head up a team of five people, despite being shy.

The candidate points out how her actions have resulted in success. It’s okay if you don’t have a success story for your grand finale. All you need to do is show that you are taking steps to improve now and in the future.

Interview over? Don’t forget to send a “Thank You” email: How to Write a Thank You Email After an Interview (+10 Examples)

Getting ready for an interview? That’s great! How about finding even more opportunities? The best way to apply is with a resume created in our auto-fill resume builder. Attach a professional cover letter from our cover letter builder to create an irresistible duo.

Make a resume template and a cover letter template work together, and get ready for your incoming interviews!

Key Takeaway

Yes, sometimes the interviewer will try to catch you off guard with an interview question that isn’t fair. And yes, “What are your weaknesses?” is one of the worst.

To properly answer it, remember:

  • Focus on being self-aware, honest, and dedicated to improvement. If you’ve got these three qualities, your weakness won’t ruin your chances of landing the job.
  • Reflect on your weaknesses and what you’re doing to improve.
  • Give an honest and constructive answer. And remember, you’re only human.

Still not sure how to talk about your weaknesses? We can help! Leave a comment, and we will help you find out how best to answer weakness questions during your interview.

About Zety’s Editorial Process

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Are Your Weaknesses

What Are the Weaknesses for Job Interviews?

Here’s a list of typical “good” weaknesses for a job interview:

  • Related to teamwork skills (finding it hard to get used to new people, delegate, share responsibility, etc.)
  • Struggles with time management skills or organizational skills in general (inability to multitask, needing a solid plan for jobs involving spontaneity, etc.)
  • Shyness (fear of public speaking, lack of presentation skills, etc.)
  • Impatience (inability to sit still for long periods, lack of focus, etc.)
  • Weak communication skills (writing, active listening, etc.)
  • Talking too much, oversharing, a peculiar sense of humor
  • Command of a particular foreign language

What to Do and Not to Do When Asked, “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses”?

While planning your answers for the “what are your weaknesses” interview question, you have to:

  1. Be honest and demonstrate self-awareness
  2. Talk about how you’re addressing the issue
  3. Make sure the weakness does not interfere with the job description

Here’s how not to approach weaknesses for a job interview: 

  1. Disguise a strength as a weakness
  2. Overshare
  3. Deny you have any weaknesses

How to Answer the “What Are Your Weaknesses” Interview Question?

Describing strengths is a piece of cake compared to admitting your own flaws. Here’s how you handle it, based on a real-life example:

  1. Make a list of potential weaknesses
  2. Study the job ad
  3. Compare the lists
  4. Craft a perfect answer that also shows strengths
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Aleksandra Nazaruk
Aleksandra is a writer and a career expert at Zety. Having experienced both sides of recruitment processes in various industries, she is confident you just need the right approach to land the job you want. In her guides, she strives to deliver straightforward career tips that are easy to follow and bring maximum impact.

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