Woman discussing her weakness in a job interview.

When you go to a job interview, you can expect to answer questions about yourself and your qualifications. One of the most feared questions is ‘What is your greatest weakness?’. It can be a challenging question to answer, and it’s easy to slip up and say the wrong thing. Today, we’ll be going over 3 of the most common incorrect answers. Of course, we’ll also describe how you can correctly answer the question!

1. Completely Deny Weakness

One of the easiest ways to destroy your job interview chances is to answer this question with complete denial. If you outright say that you don’t have any weaknesses, it’s a guaranteed way to have a recruiter stop taking you seriously. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some may be more severe than others, but everyone has both. Completely denying that you have weakness will make you look cocky and untrustworthy. It’s a great way to make sure they don’t hire you.

Another tactic similar to denial is to describe a strength as a weakness. For instance, ‘My problem is that I really love working too much. If I could work all day without taking any breaks, I would.” Whether or not that statement is true, it makes you look bad. It’s very obvious that you’re avoiding the question. Avoiding the question will lead the recruiter to think you’re hiding a weakness that would inhibit your ability to do the job.

2. Make a Joke

While it is smart to try to keep the interview conversational, it’s very easy to feel too comfortable. Making a joke out of this question will cause the recruiter to think you are avoiding the question. Even if you do actually have a weakness for dark chocolate, it’s not relevant to the interview. A cute answer will only make the recruiter more skeptical of your abilities.

Even if you’re not joking, you may be tempted to bring up a weakness that is entirely unrelated. For example, you may want to say that you’ve never been particularly good with car maintenance. That may be true, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the job (unless you are interviewing to be a mechanic.) Giving an irrelevant answer won’t do you any favors. On the other hand, you have to be careful of giving an overly relevant answer, which we’ll explain in the next section.

3. Bring Up a Problematic Weakness

You should always give a truthful answer, but you never want to give an answer that will take you out of the running. For example, if you are interviewing for a position as a blogger, you definitely don’t want to say that you’ve never had strong grammar skills. You want to give an answer that is relevant, but not one that disqualifies you from the job. Be careful you don’t say something that would actually make them not want to hire you. We’ll talk about how to walk the fine line, and give a strong answer.

How to Answer

The best way to answer the weakness question is to discuss a weakness you have conquered, or are actively working to overcome. It should be relevant to what you do, but not enough so to keep you from being able to do the job. For example, you could say that you’ve never been great at managing time, but you overcome it by utilizing email reminders and alarms to keep yourself on track. Before you start to think of how to answer, you should write up a list. As we said at the beginning, everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

If you have a job interview coming pull out a sheet of paper. Start by listing your strengths on the left side, before listing weaknesses on the right side. Weaknesses are more challenging to think of and put to paper. So begin by listing your strengths first, and then think about areas of weakness, where you’d like to improve. Now you have an entire list of areas you can work to improve. This will also make answering that question easier. If you are actively working to overcome those weaknesses, it will be easier to talk about that journey when answering the question.

Now that you’ve identified and addressed some of your weaknesses, you should be well equipped to answer that question. When answering, focus on the topic of the weakness, and how you’ve been working to combat it. This shows your ability to self-identify your own weaknesses and strive to overcome them. This certainly can be a tough question to answer, but if you’re thought about it ahead of time, it should be no problem!