How to Talk About Your Weaknesses in a Job Interview

Key Points:

  • Are you prepared to talk about your weaknesses? During job interviews, hiring managers will often ask about your weaknesses, in addition to your strengths, as a way to determine whether you are qualified for the job.
  • Interviewers want to know about what you can’t do, or what you have difficulty with on the job. How you respond will help the interviewer understand how well you know yourself, as well as whether you would be a good fit for the role.
  • Weaknesses are tricky to talk about. You need to be smart when you share your examples and you don’t want to knock yourself out of contention for the job because the interviewer thinks you’re not qualified.
  • You do want your answer to be honest, but keep it as positive as possible.
  • Related:  Learn additional best practices on how to answer the “Tell me about yourself.” question in an interview here.
Talking About Weaknesses in an Interview

Congratulations, you’ve successfully submitted your resume and you’re moving on to the next step in the hiring process.  After the interview is confirmed, you’ll begin the process of researching the company and the manager you’ll be talking to.

Interviews are important in identifying your fitness for the job and a discussion about your strengths and weaknesses is pretty common.  Many applicants don’t usually know how to talk about their weaknesses so we wanted to provide some tips to help you prepare.

Tips for Talking About Your Weaknesses

Interviewers that ask about weaknesses during an interview are looking for examples of how a person faced obstacles and overcame them in the past.  Recognizing that all job candidates have flaws, how they deal with failure and have made steps to fix them are indicators as to how they will handle constructive criticism in the future.

Interviewers ask about weaknesses and failures because resiliency is a critical skill that all employees must-have.  Similarly, as a manager, you expect to give constructive criticism to your employees and the ability of a person to take that and improve is important when choosing who you will manage.

Focus on Qualities Not Necessary for the Job.

Avoid mentioning a weakness that can ruin your chances of landing the job.  Prior to the interview, review the job description to see what exactly the employer is looking for.

Penelope Trunk, a career coach and author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, wrote in a blog post on the topic:

“Do not give a bullshit answer,” Trunk writes. “Saying something like, ‘I pay too much attention to detail’ is actually a terrible answer for someone who is getting hired to do detail work. It means you have a deficit in the exact area you’re trying to get hired for. The best answer to the question is when you tell a truthful answer because it’s very unlikely you will be hired for the thing you are most weak at doing.”

Talk About How You’ve Conquered the Weakness

Be prepared to talk about a weakness that you successfully turned into a strength.  Try not to discuss weaknesses that you have not yet turned around.

Keep it Positive

It’s important to try and remain positive when you talk about your weaknesses.  Do your best to avoid negative words like “failure” and “weak”.  Is there a way your weakness could actually be a positive for this job?

Don’t Memorize a Script

Jacquelyn Smith at Forbes does not recommend rehearsing your response.  “Of course you want to be prepared for every common interview question—especially tricky ones like this. Think about your weaknesses ahead of time, but don’t rehearse a response. Your answer might change slightly according to the rest of the conversation with the hiring manager.  In addition, you don’t want it to come across as unauthentic or staged.”

Stick to Work-Related Weaknesses

Make sure the weaknesses that you discuss are business appropriate.  Personal weaknesses are sometimes appropriate but most interviewers are looking for challenges you have in the workspace.

Emphasize a Plan of Action

Balance Careers suggests that you should explain how you are overcoming or have a plan to overcome your weakness. It is particularly useful when your weakness is a hard skill that can be easily learned. You might even phrase your answer as, “One skill I am currently working on…”

Don’t Say You’re a Perfectionist or That You Work Too Hard

Common responses that are immediately dismissed are: “I am a perfectionist,” or “I work so hard that I don’t allow myself to relax.”  In most cases, if you give this answer, you’ll be asked for another weakness.  Keep in mind that hiring managers know that people make mistakes, and they want to know how you’ve handled yours.

Share Your Strengths

Look for an opportunity to address the question about weaknesses and transition to your strengths.

Things to Consider When You Talk About Your Weaknesses

Speak With Confidence

It’s understandable that talking about your weaknesses for the first time can be overwhelming, but in an interview, you should show how capable you are of handling every obstacle that comes in your way.

Try to Balance Between Your Weak and Strong Points

Explaining more weak points than strong ones may convey slight incompetence.  On the flip side, explaining more strong points than weak ones conveys overconfidence.  Make sure you balance out your answers and remember to be confident about it.

Explain Your Past, Show Your Present and Decide Your Future

Talk about what weak/strong points you’ve faced, the ones you’re facing and the ones you plan to face up to. Not only does this show your development as a person, but it also shows your capability to get up the corporate ladder.

Takeaways for How to Talk About Your Weaknesses

Weaknesses are tricky to talk about and you need to be smart when you share your examples.   You don’t want to knock yourself out of contention for the job because the interviewer thinks you’re not qualified.  Be honest, keep it as positive as possible, and explain how you are overcoming the challenge.

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