Just How Should You Answer The ‘What Are Your Weaknesses’ Question?
10 June 2014

Just How Should You Answer The 'What Are Your Weaknesses' Question?


Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell

Barry Chignell worked in Ciphr's marketing team from 2012-2020.


Career development


Does anyone really enjoy being interviewed? Contestants on ‘The Apprentice’ would have you believe that they do, that it’s a chance to shine and wow a potential employer. There is, however, a reason that the interview episode is our favourite, it’s because pretty much every contestant crumbles under the pressure or is found out about wildly exaggerated claims on their CV. Most of us can relate to the nerves felt during an interview, especially if asked the dreaded question “so, what are your weaknesses?”, is there a good answer to this question?

perfect-candidateWhy is the question asked in the first place?

Firstly, have a think about why the interviewer is asking you about your weaknesses. It’s similar to asking you if there’s any reason that you may not be 100% in certain areas or if there’s anything that the employer should be aware of regarding training or development. They will want reassurance that you’re fit for the role and won’t be a ‘bad hire’.

The obvious things to avoid

There are some weaknesses that you should obviously avoid like “I don’t work well with others” or “I have a violent temper and am easily angered!”, it’s just common sense not to mention these (and maybe seek some therapy for the latter). The interviewer isn’t looking for a clever answer, and will appreciate honesty and respect, they won’t appreciate a response that avoids the question or is intended to deceive them.
The person interviewing you will most probably have conducted numerous interviews previously and know all the ‘usual responses’, the only way to avoid getting caught out is to be honest.

Differing theories

Below are some differing theories regarding the best way to respond to the query:

  • Talk about a weakness that doesn’t affect your ability to perform your duties in the new role. This shows that you’re self aware regarding your personal development without compromising your capability where the job is concerned. Avoid talking about completely non work related weaknesses, the interviewer really doesn’t care that you need to brush up on your kite flying skills.
    Don’t be too general with your answer, be as specific as possible as this will minimise the potential affect the weakness might have.
  • Using an example of a weakness that you have since improved upon is a good strategy. Use a project or task form a previous job to illustrate how you identified a ‘weakness’ and actively overcame it to meet deadlines or successfully complete your goals.
  • Using a weakness as a positive is one which many of us of heard of. When asked what your ‘weakness’ is the answer should be that you’re a perfectionist or that you’re ruthlessly competitive and will do anything to get ahead. This approach very rarely works, isn’t appreciated by the interviewer and more often than not the answer will sound fake and cliché.


interview-tips-and-tricksStill confused?

There’s no perfect answer to this question, much of what you decide to say will be influenced by the situation and interviewer.

The most important thing is to be honest and show that although you may have weaknesses (like everyone else), you can, and do, work to overcome them and grow as an individual.
It’s simply about showing that you’re capable, a good fit for the role and assuring the employer that they should have no doubts with regards to your suitability.

Remember, explaining a weakness isn’t always a bad thing, having flaws just means your human, knowing that you have them and being confident enough to discuss and overcome them is the important bit.