How To Answer What Is Your Greatest Weakness

The job interview is an opportunity for you to present the details that weren’t available in the resume. This time to the person tasked to streamline the number of qualified candidates or select the new hire outright – the Hiring Manager.

You want to impress the Hiring Manager and convince him that choosing you is the right move for the company. How can impress if you’re asked “What is your greatest weakness?”

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

To find out the best way to answer the question, you must understand the reasons why hiring managers want to know your greatest weakness.

  • Self-Awareness – The Hiring Manager wants to know if you keep an accounting of your weaknesses and not just of your strengths. Knowing what your weaknesses are is important because improving them will make you a more effective employee.
  • Desire to Improve – To acknowledge one’s weakness isn’t enough. The Hiring Manager would like to know if you acted on it; what steps have you taken to turn your weakness into a strength?Your answer will tell the Hiring Manager if you’re the type of person who’s willing to improve and become better at what he does.
  • Honesty – It’s easy to talk about one’s strengths – but are you as open to discussing your weaknesses? It’s normal human behavior to hide our weaknesses because we don’t want others to see our flaws.For hiring managers and other HR professionals, recognizing one’s weaknesses is a sign of honesty.

Oftentimes when the top candidates for a position are similarly qualified with their technical or hard skills, the Hiring Manager will look at soft skills – the behavioral attributes that best define the candidate’s personality – as the tiebreaker.

Companies prefer to hire people that their managers and supervisors can work with. HR professionals know that it’s easier to find job applicants with the required technical skills than it is to find people who fit the company culture.

Employees that don’t fit in with the company’s culture often become disruptive in the workplace. Having the most qualified candidate in terms of hard skills won’t matter if the person hired turns out to be a basketcase.

That’s why hiring managers ask this question. They simply want to gauge your character and see if your personality fits the employee profile their company is looking for.

How To Answer “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?”

You’re seated just a few feet from the Hiring Manager. If you’ve practiced how to articulate your strengths, discussing your greatest weakness can go smoothly if you follow our tips below.

Choose a Weakness That Won’t Disqualify You From the Job

If you’re applying for a job as a Technical Writer, don’t tell the Hiring Manager that your greatest weakness is not being detail-oriented or having the lack of patience to do comprehensive research.

Being detail-oriented and tightly focused on doing comprehensive research are 2 of the most important qualities of an effective Technical Writer.

Instead choose a weakness that won’t get the Hiring Manager to think, “He’s not the person we’re looking for”. The key is to phrase your answer correctly so the weakness won’t disqualify you from the job.

“As a Technical Writer, you have to be systematic and have a clear, organized, and structured approach to the project. And there lies my greatest weakness – the ability to 100% trust my work to my teammates especially if I’ve observed they’ve been lacking in thoroughness and responsibility. I’ve learned to circumvent this weakness by taking the time to talk with the teammate in question and having a professional conversation with regard to our respective scope of work. The purpose is to arrive at a shared interest in completing the project according to standard.”

This answer works because the candidate finds a way to tie in his greatest weakness – lack of trust – without contradicting his idea of what makes a good Technical Writer – being systematic.

To quell any fear in the Hiring Manager, the candidate explains that he’s recognized the weakness and has proactively taken steps to mitigate its effects on his performance as a Technical Writer.

Identify a Weakness That’s Real and Believable

When a job interviewee answers with “My greatest weakness is not being perfect”, you can expect the Hiring Manager to be thinking, “Okay… next!”

Not being “perfect” isn’t a weakness. You can’t hope to be one because no one is perfect.

Remember the third reason why hiring managers ask this question – honesty. They want to know if you’re honest enough to acknowledge that you have a weakness, which already means knowing you’re not perfect.

Find a weakness that’s real, believable, and most of all, be honest with yourself. An experienced Hiring Manager can tell right off the bat if you’re pulling his leg during the interview.

For example, you’re applying for the position of Research Analyst at a real estate company. Your greatest fear is public speaking. Here’s how you can explain your fear of public speaking to the Hiring Manager:

“The reason I enjoy doing research is that I get to learn new things about the topic I’m working on. In the real estate industry, I get to update my knowledge about market trends, buyer preferences, and global property prices. And I work on my own. However, as the person tasked to provide the latest information to the sales team, I have to participate in training and orientation activities that will require me to face my biggest weakness – the fear of public speaking. I worry that I’m not able to explain the topic clearly or that the attendees are bored with my presentation.”

Many people are terrified about public speaking. This is one reason why some people tend to gravitate to professions that require them to stay mostly behind the desk and isolated from everyone else – such as research work.

Companies that have sales teams frequently conduct morning meetings to share information the agents could use during their appointments. Often, it is the market researcher who’s asked to preside over the meeting.

Thus, the weakness is real, believable, and relatable to the scope of work for the position.

Touch On a Personal Weakness

Another good response to this question is to touch on something personal. It presents your human side and gives the Hiring Manager an idea of how it would be to work with you:

“My greatest weakness is that I’m a loner and tend to be quiet to a fault. I’ve been this way since my younger years. I just prefer to be by myself because it’s quiet, less stressful, and I can focus better. I think it’s because I grew up an only child and my parents were always busy at work. Initially, my co-workers are wary of my silence but once they get to know me, they quickly realize that there’s a personality beneath the quiet exterior.”

The Hiring Manager can probably tell right away that you’re a loner because of how you answer the questions.

In this case, the answer is short and straightforward but contains important information. Specifically, the reason why the candidate became a loner – growing up an only child in a dual-income environment.

The Hiring Manager knows too well that it takes different personalities to make a team run effectively.

You can’t have a team with every person having a vibrant, extroverted, and dynamic personality. Otherwise, there will be conflicts. It’s good to add quiet and introverted personalities to balance out the composition of the team.

Show the Hiring Manager You’ve Taken Steps to Address the Weakness

As we discussed earlier, the other 2 reasons why hiring managers ask this question are to find out if the candidate is self-aware and is someone who’s willing to address this weakness.

After identifying your greatest weakness, let the Hiring Manager know that you’ve taken steps to improve upon this flaw and hopefully, turn it into a weakness. We presented this in the first example but here’s another one:

“My greatest weakness is that I can be too harsh on myself when I make mistakes. I am my worst critic because I’ve always taken pride in my ability to consistently deliver results. So when a client or my supervisor tells me that I fell short of expectations or that I made certain mistakes, I get emotionally distressed. Lately, I’ve been able to shut down the noises and accept the reality of failure or making mistakes. What I did was find a support group of like-minded people who helped me change my perspective on failure. I got to accept that failure is not a sign of incompetence but rather a cue that there are areas in my work that I need to improve upon. I’ve embraced failure as my best teacher and not my worst enemy.”

By informing the Hiring Manager that you’re in the process of taking care of this weakness, you’re giving him the assurance you would be an improved version of yourself once the company has hired you.

Also, by explaining your decision to join a community of people who were also undergoing the same challenges, you’ve shown the Hiring Manager your willingness to work with others to shore up flaws.

Conclusion

To pass the job interview with flying colors you have to do 3 things: Research the company, practice your answers, and be honest with yourself.

Research helps you understand the company more so you can learn how to phrase your answers to what HR might be looking for. You can visit the company’s website and social media pages to get much-needed information.

Write down your answers and practice them in front of a mirror or role-play with a friend. Don’t memorize your answers. Practice to a point where the responses flow out naturally.

Lastly, being honest with yourself will not only make you come across as authentic but you’ll be able to pinpoint your greatest weakness right away and come up with the best answer for it.

Discover other  job interview questions and how to answer  them

Felix T. Web

I founded ResumeOK in 2011 to help people increase their chances of getting a better job. I am a career expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I found patterns that make a resume successful. Together with our team, we are sharing insights and knowledge in our resume examples and career articles. Do you have a question or need help? Just contact us here.

Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by Felix T. Web