How to answer: "What are your weaknesses?" during a job interview

By Robert Half on 5th February 2018

None of us want to reveal our weaknesses to a potential employer. When we’re asked to identify them in a high-pressure situation, like a job interview, it’s almost like being asked for a shopping list of flaws that could easily cost you the opportunity.

Of all the commonly asked interview questions, the way you handle answering a question about your weaknesses is one of the best for telling an employer about your character. This makes clever preparation all the more crucial.

Find out what employers are looking for in answers about weaknesses and how you can give a considered response that improves your chances of securing the role.

Why do employers ask questions about your weaknesses?

Answering questions about your weaknesses may feel like a fast track to saying something that could cost you a job offer, but this is not the case. Although it might sound negatively phrased, this question is an opportunity in disguise.

When an employer asks you about your weaknesses, they’re really offering you the chance to tell them where you’d like to expand within your career and to show them where you’d like the most support professionally. Organisations that are truly dedicated to developing an employee’s skills over time will need more insight on how they can achieve this on an individual basis. Your answer can give them just that.

Professional weaknesses aren’t just limited to exploring technical skill deficits, either. Being a great fit for the company entails temperament as well as skills, so by asking you to identify things you’re not so great at, an employer can learn more about your character and your approach to work. Your reply is a chance to show them how you respond to challenges and how proactive you can be when addressing them.

How to answer interview questions about your weaknesses

Part of doing your homework before a job interview includes looking at your CV to identify areas which might represent holes in your technical or soft skill set that may need addressing.

The most important thing to remember when answering a question about your weaknesses is that everyone has areas they need to improve on. Telling your interviewer that you have no weaknesses may be seen as a sign of arrogance or a lack of insight into your own skill set in relation to the wider industry.

It also isn’t beneficial to think about what are good weaknesses for a job interview, then providing a string of contrived answers designed to make you look more appealing as a candidate. Focus on technical skills you’d like to brush up on, for example. Pick a skill on your CV and let the interviewer know that this is an area you feel could use a little more work in terms of your own continual learning plan.

If you’re prone to certain team dynamic pitfalls, like taking on more than you can handle, this may be a good time to share the information. The hiring manager may see this as something simple to overcome, and can alter process or internal team flow to compensate for a known soft skill issue.

The way you respond to your weaknesses is an opportunity

You should also finish up this question by explaining what you’re already doing to improve on this weakness. This can be something along the lines of looking into training, using workplace tools and generally approaching the situation with a positive, proactive attitude.

Although it’s hard not to get caught up in preparing to answer questions about yourself, bear in mind that it’s also important to ask questions of your own in an interview.

The process should be two-way, with you assessing the company to determine whether they’ll be a good fit for you, too. Going into an interview with a list of prepared questions can also put you in a more positive light, showing that you have a keen interest in the role and that you’ve done your research on the company itself.

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