How to answer: What is your greatest weakness?
“What is your greatest weakness?”
As far as tricky job interviews questions go, this one is a classic. You want to be honest, but not so honest that you scare them away (TMI is a real thing). You might want to be funny and cute, but that can easily backfire. For example, check out this joke from employer brand consultant Jorgen Sundberg:
“What would you say is your greatest weakness?”
“I don’t think honesty is a weakness.”
“I don’t care what you think.”
This, however, is a bit risky – senses of humour vary wildly and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the right set up. Having a good straight man is everything in comedy.
To get a better sense of how you should approach this question, we spoke to Aimee Rieck, Workopolis’ senior manager of human resources.
Check out what she has to say in our latest video:
To recap, Rieck thinks that even though the question is about weakness, your answer should be framed around positive aspects of your skills and abilities.
“The trick is to pick a weakness that might be acceptable for the job and that can be improved through practice, motivation, or learning new skills. Then, you’ll want to describe how you’ve already taken steps to improve it,” Rieck said.
So, for example, if you were applying for a job as a web developer, public speaking might be a good weakness to discuss:
“My greatest weakness is speaking in front of people. Over the years, though, I’ve worked on my presentation skills, and how to control my nerves.”
See? This is an honest and understandable answer that does not impact the job in question. It is also framed in a way that illustrates how this person is trying to improve.
There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when answering this tough question:
- Try not to sound defensive
- Don’t be too critical of yourself (you are still trying to convince them to hire you)
- Try not to pick weaknesses related to your personality type or preferences. These are more difficult to change.
Remember, a hiring manager may be intending to trip you up when they ask this question, but in the end, it’s an opportunity to sell yourself.
“Use your answer to show how motivated you are to be the best at what you do,” Rieck said.