When an interviewer asks you, "What is your greatest weakness?", you don't want to respond, "I tend to work too hard," or "I am too much of a perfectionist."
Undoubtedly, these answers will come across as both insincere, and lacking true self-awareness.
Alternatively, you don't want to respond with weaknesses that will prevent you from succeeding in the role. For instance, if you're applying to be a project manager, you don't want to admit,"I'm not very good with time management."
Fortunately, there are ways to answer this question that will help you demonstrate your value as a candidate. Here, we've cultivated seven incredible answers to the dreaded "What is your greatest weakness" question -- that aren't "perfectionism".
List of weaknesses
Patience when working with a team
Can be too timid with my feedback
Can be too blunt with my feedback
When an interviewer asks "What is your greatest weakness", they want to find out:
Whether you have a healthy level of self-awareness
Whether you can be open and honest, particularly about shortcomings
Whether you pursue self-improvement and growth opportunities to combat these issues, as opposed to letting these weaknesses hold you back
Ultimately, you'll want to use this question to demonstrate how you've used a weakness as motivation to learn a new skill or grow professionally. Everyone has weaknesses -- your interviewer doesn't expect you to be perfect.
However, it's critical you avoid mentioning weaknesses that will prevent you from performing well in the role. For instance, if you're applying for a data analyst role, you don't want to say, "I'm not very good at math and struggle with numbers."
Alternatively, if you're applying for a copywriting position with little necessity for math skills, you might admit, "I struggle with numbers, and don't have much experience with data analytics. While math is not directly tied to my role as a writer, I believe it's important I have a rudimentary understanding of Google Analytics, to ensure my work is performing well. To tackle this weakness, I've been taking online courses in data analytics."
To ensure you feel confident expressing a genuine weakness to your interviewer, take a look at the following examples.
7 Incredible Answers to "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"
Here are seven examples of how you might answer "What is your greatest weakness", and why they work.
1."I don't have much patience when working with a team -- I am incredibly self-sufficient, so it's difficult when I need to rely on others to complete my work. That's why I've pursued roles that require someone to work independently. However, I've also worked to improve this weakness by enrolling in team building workshops. While I typically work independently, it's nonetheless important I learn how to trust my coworkers and ask for outside help when necessary."
This answer works because the weakness itself -- inability to be patient when working with a team -- doesn't hinder your ability to perform well in the role, which doesn't rely on teamwork to succeed. Additionally, you display an eagerness to develop strategies to combat your weakness, which is a critical skill in the workplace.
2. "I struggle with organization. While it hasn't ever impacted my performance, I've noticed my messy desk and cluttered inbox nonetheless could interfere with my efficiency. Over time, I've learned to set aside time to organize my physical and digital space, and I've seen it improve my efficiency levels throughout the week."
Plenty of people have messy desks. This answer works because it's a relatable and fixable weakness. You note that disorganization doesn't interfere with your ability to do your job, which is critical, but you also acknowledge it might make you less efficient. To ensure you're performing at 100 percent, you mention personal steps you've taken to improve your organization skills for the sake of self-improvement alone, which suggests a level of maturity and self-awareness.
3. "I'm incredibly self-motivated, and I sometimes find it difficult to delegate responsibility when I feel I can finish the task well myself. However, when I became manager in my last role, it became critical I learn to delegate tasks. To maintain a sense of control when delegating tasks, I implemented a project management system to oversee the progress of a project. This system enabled me to improve my ability to delegate efficiently."
This answer allows you to demonstrate an ability to pursue a new skill when a role calls for it, and suggests you're capable of flexibility, which is critical for long-term growth. Additionally, you are able to showcase a level of initiative and leadership when you mention the successful implementation of a new process that enabled you to succeed in your past role, despite your personal weakness.
4. "Oftentimes, I can be timid when providing constructive feedback to coworkers or managers, out of fear of hurting someone's feelings. However, in my last role my coworker asked me to edit some of his pieces and provide feedback for areas of improvement. Through my experience with him, I realized feedback can be both helpful and kind, when delivered the right way. Since then I've become better at offering feedback, and I've realized that my empathy can be used to my advantage to provide thoughtful, productive feedback."
This answer works because you've explained how you were able to turn a weakness into a strength through real-world experience. Typically, timidity can be seen as a flaw in the workplace, particularly if a role requires someone to provide feedback to others. In this case, you're able to demonstrate how timidity can be used as a strength, through thoughtful reflection and practice.
5. "My blunt, straightforward nature has allowed me to succeed over the years as a team manager, because I'm able to get things done efficiently, and people often appreciate my honesty. However, I've recognized my bluntness doesn't always serve my employees well when I'm delivering feedback. To combat this, I've worked to develop empathy and deeper relationships with those I manage. Additionally, I took an online leadership management course, and worked with the professor to develop my ability to deliver feedback."
Oftentimes, facets of our personalities can help us in certain areas of our work, while hindering us in others. That's natural. However, it's critical you demonstrate an ability to recognize when your personality interferes with the functions of your role, and how you solve for that.
In this example, you first explain how your blunt nature allows you to be successful in certain situations. Then, you mention that you understand your bluntness can be seen as a lack of empathy, and then provide examples of how you've attempted to solve this issue. Ultimately, your awareness of how you might be perceived by others shows a level of emotional intelligence, which is a critical asset for a team leader.
6. "Public speaking makes me nervous. While I don't need to do much public speaking in my role as web designer, I nonetheless feel it's an important skill to know when I want to offer my opinion during a meeting. To combat this, I spoke with my manager and she recommended I speak each team meeting for a few minutes about our project timeline, deadlines, and goals when developing a website for a client. This practice has enabled me to relax and see public speaking as an opportunity to help my team member's do their jobs effectively."
In this example you mention a skill that isn't applicable to the role, but one which you nonetheless have been working to improve. This shows your desire to meet more business needs' than necessary in your current role, which is admirable. Additionally, it's impressive if you can show you're willing to reach out to your manager with areas in which you want to improve, instead of waiting for your manager to suggest those areas of improvement to you -- it demonstrates a level of ambition and professional maturity.
7. "I'm not great at analyzing data or numbers. However, I recognize this flaw can prevent me from understanding how my content is performing online. In my last role, I set up monthly meetings with the SEO manager to discuss analytics and how our posts were performing. Additionally, I received my Google Analytics certificate, and I make it a point to analyze data related to our blog regularly. I've become much more comfortable with data through these efforts."
In this example, you're able to show your desire to go above-and-beyond a job description, and actively seek out skills that could be helpful to the success of your company as a whole. This type of company-first mentality shows the interviewer you're dedicated to making yourself a valuable asset, and try your best to understand the needs of the whole department, rather than just your role.
How to answer "What are your greatest weaknesses?"
Choose a weakness that will not prevent you from succeeding in the role.
Be honest and choose a real weakness.
Provide an example for how you've worked to improve your area of weakness, or learn a new skill to combat the issue.
Demonstrate self-awareness and an ability to look to others to provide you with the resources necessary for growth.
Don't be arrogant, but alternatively, don't underestimate yourself or show lack of confidence when you answer.
Originally published Dec 18, 2018 7:00:00 AM, updated March 17 2021