During an interview, an employer asks you a series of questions to learn more about your personality, experience and professional background. They often ask questions to get a sense of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Although the latter may be challenging to answer, it's your chance to acknowledge that there are specific skills or traits you are working to improve. In this article, we discuss why employers ask, 'What are your weaknesses?', explain how to answer and provide example answers you can use as inspiration.
Why employers ask, 'What are your weaknesses?'
Employers may ask what your weaknesses are during an interview to learn if you have the ambition to use your weaknesses as a chance to grow in your career. Here are some traits they may be looking for within your response:
- Self-awareness: This question helps the interviewer understand how well you know yourself. A sense of self-awareness means that you are willing to acknowledge your weaknesses and work on improving them.
- Honesty: In making yourself vulnerable and talking about your weaknesses, you also show how honest you are.
- Emotional quotient: This is an essential part of your emotional intelligence. It shows that you have the ability to monitor and manage your emotions and identify your motivations.
- Self-improvement: Your answer can show that you are willing to improve specific aspects of yourself and learn new things.
Thinking about your own weaknesses is a humbling experience. It's important to think about your weaknesses before your interview so that you can give an answer that shows your awareness and ambition to change. Rather than disguising a strength as a weakness, use this as an opportunity to address skills or personal characteristics you could improve.
How to answer 'What are your weaknesses?'
Follow these steps to effectively answer this challenging interview question:
1. Perform self-reflection
Prepare for this question by reflecting on yourself for a moment. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What challenges do I regularly encounter?
- What feedback have I received in the past?
- What are my personal goals?
- What tasks do I find myself having to do over again?
2. Consider the position you're applying to
Make your answer relevant to the job you are applying to. Although you want to show the employer that you possess all the skills and qualities they require, you can think of ways you could continue to excel in this role. Think of a particular skill that you could improve to be a more qualified employee. Show the employer that you are goal-oriented and interested in learning new things.
3. Make it positive and actionable
After explaining your weakness, share how you want to work toward overcoming it. You can turn your weakness into an opportunity to become a more skilled employee or a more well-rounded individual. This can help you emphasise that you are the type of person who accepts challenges.
Consider these example answers to the 'What are your weaknesses?' interview question to help you prepare your own response:
- Example 1: Self-criticism
- Example 2: Organisation
- Example 3: Overworking
- Example 4: Public speaking
- Example 5: Shyness
- Example 6: Asking for help
Example 1. Self-criticism
Self-criticism is an understandable weakness since many people are their own worst critics. This weakness can show that you care a lot about your work and always want to strive to do better. It's also helpful to let the employer know that you have this tendency, so they understand what kind of feedback is most helpful to you. In your answer, explain that you want to try to grow from your feedback while still finding ways to acknowledge your achievements.
Example: '*One thing I would like to improve is how often I criticise myself. Rather than focusing on my achievements, I tend to direct my attention to what I can do better. Although this is useful in small doses, I am learning that it's also important to acknowledge what I do well. I am currently working on this weakness by thinking three positive thoughts for every negative thought I have. I am also waking up each day and focusing on a list of positive, self-loving affirmations.'*
Example 2: Organisation
If staying organised is your weakness, this is perfectly fine to share with an employer as long as you make it clear that it doesn't affect the quality of your work. You can explain that you're used to working amongst clutter but now realise that it's time for a change. In your answer, include ways you're going to improve your organisation skills and keep a tidy workspace.
Example: 'I could improve my organisation skills. I think my main weakness is that I focus so much on my work that I need to leave more time to get things in order. After realising that this reflects on my professionalism, I have begun to work toward keeping my desk and home spaces more organised. I use an app reminder to help myself take at least five minutes each day to tidy up. I am already starting to naturally keep things in order.'
Example 3: Overworking
If you find yourself constantly accepting new work without finishing other tasks, overworking might be your weakness. In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you need to learn how to create boundaries between work and your personal life. In your answer, explain how you want to work on prioritising tasks and giving yourself enough time to live a more balanced life.
Example: 'My weakness is thinking I can handle more than is physically or mentally possible. At my previous job, I often felt like I was constantly busy and always trying to catch up. To help myself with this habit, I am working on prioritising tasks. This way I can feel calmer and more clear-headed as I work on my projects. I find that I do better work when I feel like I have enough time. I am also making an effort to fully enjoy my personal time outside of work so I can return to the office feeling recharged rather than burnt out.'
Example 4: Public speaking
Public speaking is a common fear for many people, so this an acceptable weakness to share. This is especially true if public speaking isn't a major component of your role. In your answer, explain why you find public speaking challenging. Then, list some ways you hope to overcome this fear and become a better public speaker.
Example: 'Public speaking has always been a challenge for me. I think it's because I focus too much on what other people think, and I need to realise that people are often more focused on themselves. If you accept me for this position, my first goal is to create a presentation for my team. I want to get to where I feel comfortable and confident in presenting information. My plan is to practise in front of family and friends and use their feedback to help me be a better speaker.'
Example 5: Shyness
Feeling shy at work may make it challenging to open up to your new coworkers and get involved in team-building activities. By explaining your shyness to an employer, you express that sometimes it may take you a little longer to feel comfortable at work than most other people. This is helpful for them to know so they can find team-building activities that better suit your personality. In your answer, explain how you can make an effort to be more outspoken.
Example: '*I am a naturally shy person, and it takes time for me to open up to people and be a part of the group. This weakness has made it challenging for me to make new friends, and it's my goal to learn to be more of an extrovert. Starting a new job would be a great opportunity to try to speak up and introduce myself to others. I want to be the person who can make a joke in a group and feel confident about it. I find that as I practise talking to big groups of people more, my shyness begins to fade away.'*
Example 6: Asking for help
When you start a new job, it's quite common to need to ask for help. Asking for help is a useful skill when you have a large workload or lack certain expertise. Sharing this weakness shows employers that you are aware of your apprehension to ask favours. In your answer, explain that you are aware of the benefits of asking for help. Share ways you are going to try to be more confident in finding help.
Example: 'Sometimes, I avoid asking others for help because I feel bothersome. I am starting to realise that in order to learn new skills and balance my workload, it's often necessary to ask for help. I also realise that I always welcome people to ask me for help, so I am allowed to assume the same. To overcome this weakness, I am trying to be more confident about asking favours of others. I find that offering to help others makes it easier for me to also ask for help.'