What is your biggest weakness?

Published on: 12 Feb 2019


Kryptonite image: Gúnna/Flickr

When it comes to interviews, there’s one question that time and time again gets us all: What is your biggest weakness?

It’s a question that causes an immediate problem: as you’re sat in the chair giving as good an account of yourself as you can muster, are you really meant to tell the panel something negative about yourself that, if chosen carelessly, could spell the end for your application?

Fortunately there are some tactical ways to address this most tricky of interview questions:

Say something positive

Probably the most skillful response is to turn a negative into a positive and give your chances of selection that important boost.

If you are obsessed with small details to the point it drives your colleagues mad, describe how your attentiveness means you consistently complete accurate work. If you don’t stop and plan before jumping into a project, explain that your commitment to your work and endless energy is a powerful asset to any employer. This way you will lead your interviewers to think about how they will benefit from appointing you, even if you aren’t perfect.

Say something irrelevant

Normally it’s better to respond to interview questions succinctly and straight down the line but, on this occasion, giving an irrelevance could work a treat.

Bear in mind the key skills stated on the person specification and choose an unrelated weakness that isn’t likely to impact upon your role if you are successful. In other words, you’re demonstrating self-awareness but not highlighting that you’re unfit for the job.

Explain how you’ve improved

Having a weakness might be regarded negatively, but working to overcome it could set you above your competitors. Talk about a weakness you have overcome in the past which is now a strength and explain what steps you took to make the transition.

An example might be a challenging responsibility you have proven in your current role you can adapt to and for which you now show particular proficiency. 

Avoid clichés

Some responses will have been heard a million times before. This includes jokes (“Answering this question!”) and clichés (“I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”) – and avoid like the plague negative character traits such as arrogance, impatience or unreliability, even if it’s the truth.

Do remember that the panel will want to hear you can identify your own weaknesses as this is a key part of self-improvement and appraisal. Saying nothing, or claiming not to have any weaknesses, could backfire completely.