1. Choose a weakness that will not prevent you from succeeding in the role.
When an interviewer asks, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ they want to find out:
Whether you have a healthy level of self-awareness
Whether you can be open and honest, particularly about shortcomings
Whether you pursue self-improvement and growth opportunities to combat these issues, as opposed to letting these weaknesses hold you back
Ultimately, you’ll want to use this question to demonstrate how you’ve used a weakness as motivation to learn a new skill or grow professionally. Everyone has weaknesses — your interviewer doesn’t expect you to be perfect.
2. Be honest and choose a real weakness
The answer ‘perfectionism’ won’t cut it when talking about your biggest weakness because it’s not a real weakness. Perfectionism can never be attained — it’s a fear-based pattern that leads to short-term rewards like getting the job done early and exceeding expectations. However, in the long term, trying to attain perfectionism leads to burnout, low-quality work, and missed deadlines. Burnout is one of the biggest contributors to decreased productivity, turnover, and low employee engagement — all of which cost a company money, time, and talent.
Instead, choose a real weakness. Underneath the desire to do perfect work may lie a weakness of trust. Perhaps you don’t trust that you’ll be able to make mistakes on the team, so you strive to do everything perfectly. That’s a real weakness that you can definitely overcome.
3. Provide an example of how you’ve worked to improve upon your weakness or learn a new skill to combat the issue
Hiring managers don’t expect you to overcome your weaknesses completely overnight. Everyone has areas they must constantly work on to keep them sharp. Think of it this way — if you’ve dedicated six months to work out, you won’t be able to stop one day and maintain your progress. It’s an ongoing process that you have to work at.
4. Think about weaknesses in your own personal life
If you humanize yourself in the interview, it’ll allow your interviewer to connect and visualize working with you in the future. It’s not just about weaknesses that pertain to the job. For example, if you are an introvert and you notice your preference for quiet time stops you from taking risks, this is a relatable weakness. When you demonstrate your self-awareness this way, it shows you understand that self-improvement correlates to work performance.
5. Think of where you’d like to be and what support you need to get there
Overall, growth is a part of life. Think about people you look up to that may be related to the field that you’re in. Ask yourself what character traits those people have and what work you might need to do in order to get there. By providing an example of how you’re working to improve your area of weakness, you’ll give the interviewer a glimpse into a few positive attributes of your awareness, including that:
You know how to identify and mitigate issues that come up.
You’ve found a helpful solution to a problem that you and perhaps others on the team face, which means you can be an immediate resource to the team.
You demonstrate self-awareness and an ability to take feedback from others.