How to Successfully Answer: “What is Your Greatest Weakness?”

Last Updated on January 29, 2020

girl answering What is Your Greatest Weakness?”


Spinning the negative into a positive

The question “What is your greatest weakness” has been asked of nearly every individual at some point in their career. It is moving out of the list of common interview questions, but it still occasionally presents itself.

Most people have no idea how to successfully answer what their greatest weakness is. For this reason, some employers love to pose it. Unfortunately, most people offer a terrible example of their worst attribute.

The common mistake most job seekers make is to say their greatest weakness is “working too hard” or “accepting too much responsibility.” This was my answer during my first interview at 15 years old. I thought it was incredibly clever.

Once I was promoted into management and began conducting interviews with other prospects, I realized most people answer this question the same way. This is called “humblebragging” and according to a study conducted by Harvard, 70% of hiring managers only offer employment to a candidate who cites a legitimate weakness in their response.

During my time as a hiring manager, I only heard one remarkable response and that was: “fried food.” The comment was so refreshing and so honest that the person was hired immediately. The worst answer is “nothing.” This is the second most common mistake. The interview was over in my mind the moment the person gave this response. It is unimaginative and arrogant. It exhibits a lack of ability or willingness to follow a simple direction. At worst, it is as disrespectful as saying “I don’t know” to any question.


Research your market

The first step in successfully defining your greatest weakness is to understand why the question is asked.

Employers want to know how you will respond under pressure. They want to know if you are self-aware. Most importantly, they do not really want to know what your worst habit is. Rather, they want to know what you are doing to improve your weakest attribute. According to Business Insider, their objective may be to vet any potential reasons for hiring you, but you must disregard this attempt by redirecting the question to why they should hire you.


Know your answers before the interview

The next step in discussing your weakness is knowing what to say.

Are you late all the time? Don’t say this. Instead, state that you used to be excellent at accepting large workloads but weren’t the best at managing the time. If you have a habit of drinking in excess, stealing, or not showing up for a job; find something else to offer. This isn’t a test of your objective integrity. A brutally honest answer will not earn you any points. You should neither divulge personal information about your romantic troubles or your personal life. Remember step one. You must answer this question by first understanding why it is asked.


What is your greatest weakness? Turn negative into a positive

The final step in discussing your weakness is to spin it into a positive answer.
Instead of confessing your habitual tardiness, say that over the last year you’ve set goals for yourself to organize your calendar more effectively. Discuss in detail the steps you’ve taken to resolve this issue. Describe how you implemented your metrics to keep yourself on track without your supervisor having to step in. Show your initiative. Display how proactive you are when it comes to problem-solving. The interviewer understands that we all have weaknesses, but using this method will prove that you are capable of self-discipline and personal development.

Your success in answering “What is Your Greatest Weakness” depends on the level of creativity and thought you put behind your response. Remember why the question is asked. Have a few good examples. Don’t forget to cite how you are improving these skills, and finally, turn it into a positive.

Your objective is to prove why they should hire you, never give them a reason to turn you away. © 2019