How To Answer: What Are Your Weaknesses?

By Elaine Sim   •   6 min read
LANDING-JOBS

Ah, here comes the dreaded interview question.

What are your weaknesses?

You came to the interview to impress the interviewer, and hopefully, land the job. The last thing you would ever want the interviewer to know is what your weaknesses are. After all, showing your flaws is a bad thing right?

Wrong.

During the interview, we tend to forget that we are all humans – including the interviewer and your prospective employer. And being humans, we all have our own flaws, shortcomings, failures and weaknesses.

If you are wondering how to answer this question effectively without sabotaging yourself for the job – we got you covered! In this guide, we will explore:

  1. Why do interviewers ask: What are your weaknesses?
  2. How do I figure out my weaknesses?
  3. How to answer this question?
  4. Examples 😀
  5. What are some common mistakes to avoid?

Why do interviewers ask: What are your weaknesses?

When interviewers ask this question, there are often things that they are looking out for.

Are you self-aware?

Self-awareness is a predictor of success in life.

Being self-aware of your own weaknesses and being humble enough to acknowledge them shows the interviewer that you know you are not perfect. Knowing what you lack is a good start to improving yourself – which showcases your teachable side to the interviewer.

There are many ways you can increase self-awareness from gathering opinions from your friends or colleagues to journaling down what you can do and cannot do.

What are you doing about it?

Knowing your weakness is one thing but working on it to improve is a whole another ball game.

It is not easy to work on your weakness. Working on it is a constant reminder to yourself on what you are not good at – and it doesn’t feel good. But everyone is a work-in-progress. No one is perfect. What’s important is what you’re doing to improve yourself.

Imagine this. You are the interviewer and there are two candidates that mentioned their weakness is public speaking. One of them simply said this is a weakness he is struggling with, whereas the other candidate mentioned how they started to volunteer to present in classes.

Although the latter did something simple, it was a great deal compared to the former candidate and will definitely leave a better and stronger impression on the interviewer.

Can you do the job?

The weaknesses you share – and how you are improving on them – are additional data points for the interviewer to assess your suitability for the role.

Essentially, the interviewer wants to know if you have the ability, and the right assets, to take on the new job.

It sounds stressful, knowing that if you answer this wrongly, you may just cast doubt on what you can do. But don’t worry, this guide will help you get the big no-nos to this question out of the way.

How do I figure out my weaknesses?

Before we jump into knowing what we should or should not say when answering “What are your weaknesses?” question, many of us struggle to even figure out what are our weaknesses.

To help you with that, here’s a worksheet we’ve prepared that includes a list of soft skills to help you more easily identify the areas you may be weaker in:

Get Your Guided Worksheet - How To Answer: What Are Your Weaknesses

Get Your Guided Worksheet - How To Answer: What Are Your Weaknesses

How do I answer this question?

There is strength in vulnerability. Showcasing your weaknesses does not mean that you are eliminating yourself from the job, but you need to know what the best way is to answer it.

To help you remember the best way to tackle this question, we have broken it down to 3 simple key things you need to take note of, which can be easily remembered as the ABC method:

  1. Actions you took to overcome it
  2. Be upfront about your weakness
  3. Create a plan for further action

ABC Method: Actions taken, Be honest, Create a plan for future action

Actions that you took

When you talk about your weakness, you need to accompany it with things that you have done to overcome the weakness.

For example: Let’s say you are applying to be a journalist, but have no industry experience. That is a clear weakness that disadvantages you compared to other candidates. However, you could have joined a club that produces monthly newsletters for the school that gave you practical hands-on experience. This proves to the interviewer that you took action to overcome your weakness and are serious about pursuing a career in journalism.

Be upfront about it

State exactly what your weakness is and be upfront about the struggle you have. If there is a reason why you have this weakness, share that honestly with the interviewer as well.

Create a plan for further action

Be forward-looking.

Impress your interviewer by telling them what else you plan to do to alleviate your weakness. Go a step further and link it to their company and the job – this shows the company that you have done in-depth research on them.

For example: Let’s say you are applying for a marketing position in a retail company, and your weakness is that you are unfamiliar with running paid ad campaigns (which is one of the non-vital requirements for the position). Share how you are taking a Udemy course on paid ad campaigns, and even studying the ads that competitors in the retail space have ran.

It’s Your Turn: Use the guided worksheet to craft your own answer to effectively answer this question in your next interview:

Get Your Guided Worksheet - How To Answer: What Are Your Weaknesses

Get Your Guided Worksheet - How To Answer: What Are Your Weaknesses

Let’s look at some examples

Here are some examples of answers to What are your weaknesses?” question using the ABC method:

Example answer 1 to interview question "What are your weaknesses?"

Example answer 2 to interview question "What are your weaknesses?"

Example answer 3 to interview question "What are your weaknesses?"

What are the common mistakes to avoid?

Turning your weakness into strength

Your interviewer has heard this way too often and they can see right through it. Not only is it cringe-worthy, you come across as complacent or not self-aware to be honest about your weaknesses. Do not give answers like this:

  • I am too much of a perfectionist.
  • I work too hard sometimes and don’t know when to stop.
  • I am too passionate about this industry which takes up a lot of my emotional energy.

They ask this question to hear a real weakness.

What’s vital to the job

Practice selective honesty. Do not talk about weaknesses that touch on traits or skills critical for the job. If you are trying to land a job in sales, you probably don’t want to say that your weakness is meeting strangers and dealing with rejection. Applying for a customer service representative will possibly involve the requirements of being patient and serving customers with a smile – so you probably do not want to bring up a weakness that you lose your cool easily.


Elaine Sim

TalentTribe Writer

As a fellow millennial, Elaine understands how nerve-wrecking the job search process is having experienced multiple job applications. She’s on a journey to share job search insights in an easy-to-understand manner, to help fellow early-career jobseekers find a career they love.


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