As you’re getting ready to interview, it’s important to prepare for commonly asked questions, including “What is your greatest weakness?”. This question can be challenging, so let’s walk through some strategies for addressing this question successfully!
What are interviewers looking to learn?
With each interview question, it’s important to consider what your audience wants to learn about you. Interviewers are trying to gain an understanding of how you align with their hiring needs and the position description. Throughout the interview, provide evidence of your skills, knowledge, and experience relevant to the position.
With that being said, everyone has flaws and areas for growth. This question enables interviewers to assess your self-awareness and career readiness, specifically, your career and self-development competency, which the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) defines as your ability to “proactively develop oneself and one’s career through continual personal and professional learning, awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, [and] navigation of career opportunities…”.
Interviewers want to know that you’re qualified for the role, but that you’re also able to build new skills, learn new tasks, and handle challenges.
What to do
It’s important that you give an authentic answer about your weakness and the actions you’re taking to improve in this area. Interviewers want to hear that you’ve taken steps, such as participation in further education and training, to develop professionally.
When identifying your weaknesses, consider feedback you’ve received from others and reflect on times when you came up short or could’ve done better. Brainstorm several weaknesses in case you get asked for more than one. This is also helpful because you may want to use different weaknesses depending on the position description.
When responding, state where you started, the action you’ve taken to improve, and the outcome. For example, “My greatest weakness is that I have a hard time saying ‘no’, and I can take on more than I can manage. My enthusiasm and desire to be a team player at times have led me to over-promise. To improve in this area, I use a project management tool to stay organized and manage my workload. I make sure to ask questions from the outset about the expected time commitment and deadlines to see whether it’s something I can realistically take on. I also check in with my supervisor as needed to discuss my bandwidth and prioritization.”
What not to do
Remember to review the position description carefully as you prepare for the interview. As you’re sharing your greatest weakness, be sure not to choose a weakness that relates to the main responsibilities of the role. You don’t want to raise any red flags or doubts about your ability to fulfill the role. For example, if you’re applying to a role that heavily involves administrative tasks, you don’t want to say that you struggle with attention to detail and organization. The interviewer will question your ability to do the job well.
Although you should brainstorm multiple responses to this question, you shouldn’t offer more weaknesses than are requested. Oftentimes, you may just be asked for your greatest weakness, but it’s possible that your interviewer may ask you to share 2-3 areas for improvement.
Lastly, don’t memorize your answer. It’s helpful to have prepared talking points, but you don’t want to sound over-rehearsed or inauthentic.
Check out these resources for practicing and learning more!
- Big Interview: It’s an online mock interview system that will help you prepare effectively by improving your interview techniques, practicing answers to tough questions, and building your confidence. You can access Big Interview through Handshake here.
- Mock interviews: Schedule a mock interview appointment through the Center for Career Development to get direct feedback on your responses and your body language. You can schedule an appointment through Handshake here.