How to Discuss Weaknesses in a Job Interview

August 31, 2023
By Nelson Connects

In this article, you'll learn why interviewers ask this question and how to prepare for it. You'll get tips on how to select "good" weaknesses and frame them in a positive light. 

Remember, interviewers know that everyone has weaknesses. They want to see if you're aware of yours and working to overcome them.

It's not what you say but how you say it.


You always want to put your best foot forward in a job interview. So when an interviewer says, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses,” it’s often much easier to talk about your strengths than your weaknesses.


There’s an important reason interviewers ask this question. The answer can indicate your level of self-awareness and whether you’ve learned to manage your weaknesses. However, discussing your weak points can make you feel vulnerable. What if you expose a critical red flag and ruin your chances of getting the job?


In this article, we’ll show you how to prepare for this question, identify “good” weaknesses, and frame them in a positive light. 


Understanding the Purpose of Discussing Weaknesses


Interviewers want to gain a holistic insight into who you are.


What type of personality and behavioral traits do you have? In which areas do you shine, and in which do you struggle?


Interviewers know everyone has flaws. Asking about your weakness isn’t meant to trip you up. It’s a behavioral question.


The interviewer is trying to ascertain the following:

  • How honest you are about your weaknesses.

  • If you’re aware of how your weaknesses can impact the workplace.

  • If you’re willing to work at overcoming your weaknesses.

  • If your weaknesses will negatively impact the organization’s culture.

  • If you might have critical flaws that could hamper your ability to perform the job role.

Talking about your weak points isn’t something to fear. Depending on your approach, the discussion can actually work in your favor. You’ll come across as genuine and authentic if you answer the question honestly.


Preparing for the Interview


Because the “weaknesses” topic is a common interview question, it’s wise to prepare a list of weaknesses ahead of time.


Understanding the job requirements can help you use the question to your advantage. Research the company and try to assess your weaknesses against the job requirements and the company’s values. This process also helps you avoid picking a weakness that may negatively affect your chances of getting the job.


For example, if the job is deadline-driven, you may want to avoid mentioning that you struggle with time management if you can’t demonstrate the steps you’ve taken to overcome the problem.


Word of caution: Do not fake your strengths and minimize your weaknesses to impress the interviewer. If you get the job and your abilities aren’t as strong as you stated, you might jeopardize the employer’s trust or your own career advancement.


Identifying Appropriate Weaknesses


When selecting weaknesses to bring forward, be sure they make sense in context of the job opportunity. In other words, “I have a fear of escalators” is irrelevant.


Many candidates present weaknesses based on soft skills, such as poor writing or networking skills, but - your weaknesses can also relate to technical skills.


Suppose you’re applying for a customer support team leader position. If you’re strong on the backend, such as analyzing customer service data, but not comfortable talking to clients, you could frame your weakness in the following way:


“While data analysis comes naturally to me, my client-facing skills are not as strong. I’ve been working on improving my communication skills to engage better with clients.” Note however, that if you state you are actively improving a weakness, be prepared with examples should the interviewer ask for them.


Other broad areas you review for job-relevant weaknesses include:

  • Workplace dynamics, such as interpersonal skills or conflict resolution.

  • Productivity, such as time management or learning to delegate.

  • Productivity, such as time management or learning to delegate.

  • Personal traits, such as impatience or being self-critical.

Based on the job requirements, try to select the weaknesses that may influence but are not essential to the job.


Presenting Weaknesses in a Positive Light


It’s not what you say but how you say it. How you frame your weaknesses is what matters. Most importantly, you should explain how you overcame the problem or are working towards overcoming them.


Here are three examples:


Example 1:


"I have trouble multitasking. When I’m faced with several demands, trying to do everything at once can be overwhelming. I prefer focusing on one task at a time before moving on to the next. I find I am more productive this way."


Example 2:


"In the past, I’ve been afraid to present my ideas in team meetings. I’m working on building confidence by contributing more to meetings." 


Example 3:


"Sometimes I can appear too direct when communicating with co-workers. I’m conscious of this and am learning to offer feedback that is constructive without sounding critical."


Be careful not to turn a weakness into a strength or come across as smug.


For example:


"I have difficulty delegating. I find that if I want something done correctly, it’s easier to do it myself."


The goal is to show you are aware of a weakness and taking steps to improve it. The last example tells the interviewer you lack humility and see no reason to change your behavior.


Responding to Follow-up Questions


So you’ve nailed your answer, but what if the interviewer wants you to elaborate further?


They may ask questions, such as:


"Can you give us an example of a situation this applied to?" 
Do you feel this weakness has hindered your career growth?"


"If you got the job, how could we support you in growing in this area?"


Interviewers typically ask follow-up questions if they want more information and to see if you can think on your feet. Follow-up questions can throw you off your stride if you’re not prepared. You can’t anticipate what they will ask, but you can prepare a few thoughtful and relevant answers to questions you think they might ask.


When you appear unflustered when discussing your weaknesses, that’s a good sign for an interviewer. It shows you’re fully aware of your shortcomings and not afraid to talk about them. Your honesty could set you apart from other candidates.


Match Your Weaknesses to the Job Role and Company Culture


Remember that interviewers ask about weaknesses to gauge if your personality and character traits will fit the job role and company culture. Answer their questions frankly and put a positive spin on it. Most importantly, express your willingness to work on your shortcomings to improve your professional performance and contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment.


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