How to answer the interview question: What is your biggest weakness?

What is your biggest weakness is a question often asked at interviews. It is no doubt a tricky question because you are asked to divulge your shortcomings to total strangers. Answer this question with tact and you will widen your prospects of landing the job. Learn how to turn your weakness into your strengths and ace the interview.

You attend a job interview expecting to be asked questions on work experience and academics but are instead asked about your personal traits. What is your biggest weakness is top on the list of questions, asked at interviews. This question is posed not just at job interviews but MBA aspirants are also asked to identify their biggest weakness, in interviews and essays.

It might seem awkward to speak out about a weakness to a total stranger. After all most of us perceive our weaknesses as a negative attribute. However, there is a good reason behind this question, and your answer could well clinch the job for you. So, don't take the question lightly – go to the interview, prepared and ready with a convincing reply to this very tricky question.

Everyone attending an interview wants to present their best side and the question about weakness often stumps aspirants. When facing interviews expect the unusual – a good way to tackle odd questions is to be prepared with suitable responses. The interviewer(s) will see you as confident if you are able to answer delicate questions without hesitation. So, how do you answer this tricky question, without embarrassing yourself or showing yourself as incompetent? The key here is to work out a response that answers the question, yet shows you in a positive light.

How not to respond to – what is your biggest weakness?

This is a serious question, and your response will provide the interviewer(s) an insight into your personality. The interviewer(s) have no interest in which flavour of ice cream is your weakness. If butterscotch ice-cream is your favourite dessert – don't mention it to them, they don't need to know it.

The question doesn't imply that you speak of a weakness that has you all hot and bothered – it won't be right to speak of your habit of waiting to do things at the last minute or your inability to work under stringent deadlines. You will highlight a very negative attribute, and you don't want to do that. Your response will immediately bring down your score.

Recommended Reading: How to answer typical job interview questions

Remember, every organisation wants quick results. They seek candidates who can deliver. They want candidates who give their best, even under pressure. They don't want to build a team of procrastinators or nervous jittery employees. Your response should neither be frivolous nor create an impression that you will not be able to cope. It should focus on work-related skills, as it would demonstrate your professional attitude and that you understand the seriousness of the question.

What are the interviewer(s) looking for?

It is an awkward question, but it is also complex and it needs to be answered with a flair of confidence. You are being asked to speak about your limitations and faults when instinct tells you to mask your shortcomings behind a veneer of positive qualities so that you can make a good impression. What you need to do is frame your response such that there is a positive edge to it.

This question is crucial in interviews for you and the interviewer. The right response will reflect a highly analytical mind and the ability to introspect - both, qualities that are appreciated in almost all industries. This does not mean that become critical of yourself – it will boomerang.

How do you address the challenging question – what is your biggest weakness?

Talk of a real issue and how you overcame it. Concentrate on steps you took to tackle the issue and how you have been successful in your endeavours. Here are some examples –

  • Speak of how you were unable to put your views across in group discussions because of an innate shyness, and how you worked to overcome it by joining various groups at university where you had to interact with people or that a public speaking course helped get you out of your shell
  • Speak of how a management course helped you handle pressure and that now you are adept at multitasking

The focus must be on what you couldn't do but have learned to do through concentrated effort. Let the interviewer(s) know that you realised it was a weakness and it was holding you back and that you worked to remedy it.

Recommended Reading: How to answer the tricky – 'Tell me about yourself' question in an interview

However, a better reaction to the question would be to talk about a weakness that could also be seen as your forte. Here is what you could say –

I tend to be meticulous in all that I do/I like to finish my work on time/I get involved in whatever I am doing – and it annoys me when others in my group/team do not share the same work ethics/attitude/enthusiasm.

So you speak of a weakness but make it appear as your strength. It is a weakness because your traits are uncommon. Your attention to detail and your involvement in what you do brings out a leadership quality in you. You tend to take charge and become an undisputed leader. You actually turn a potential weakness into an asset – because you begin mentoring and taking charge.

Alternatively, you can mention something that you are really not adept at but know for sure that it will not influence the interviewer(s) negatively because the job profile does not require that skill. For instance, if you are applying for a job that doesn't involve advanced computer skills you can safely confess that you are not tech savvy to a professional level. Although, you know the basics and want to improve your knowledge, for it is always good to know/learn new things.

When you talk of your shortcomings always impress upon the interviewer(s) that you do not let it come in the way of your progress. You always draw upon your resources/inner strength/skills to overcome the odds. You do not let your limitations act as a stumbling block. You put in conscious effort to circumvent your shortcomings.

Important interview tips

  • Stay positive and it will reflect in your responses
  • Prepare for the interview – and by prepare I mean research the organisation and the job profile
  • Link your responses to suit the requirements of the company and the job profile
  • Also, provide examples of situations when you felt restricted by your weaknesses and how you overcame them
  • Portray the positive even in the negative – speak of lessons you learned along the way, which have helped you
  • Do not start all your sentences with an 'I'
  • Work on presentation – you should practice and learn to use the right words and phrases when responding
  • Be prepared for counter questions that might be thrown back at you – this is common in pressure tests, where you are judged how well you respond under severe stress
  • Sound realistic and genuine and don't sound rehearsed

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao22 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

A very good article as usual by Ms. Juana. She has narrated all the points to be highlighted while facing an interview.

Be sure of your answers in an interview. The people will try to confuse you. But don't get confused. Try to see that your answer will be guiding them for the question you have anticipated. It is not advisable to make any guess work. If you don't know the answer tell them you don't know. There is no rule that everybody should know everything. Reply with confidence. The chances for your selection will increase.

Author: Anauj22 Jun 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 2

The right way to go about answering the 'weakness' question is by showing yourself as human. Candidates should never try and impress on the panel that they have no faults and weaknesses. We all have something that holds us back. None of us is perfect.

The right approach is to indicate that you are aware of your weakness and are taking steps to overcome it. When you recognise your weakness and admit it to others, you show that you are not all smug.

Author: Neeru Bhatt11 Feb 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 1

It is true that for answering the interview questions a candidate should have knowledge of the things and he should be able to present it clearly. Some people are good in presenting but some, due to lack of confidence, cannot explain properly though they may be knowing the things completely.

So for attending an interview the candidate should practice alone or in front of a mirror by answering to the common and other questions. This may help in self assessment and may improve the overall presentation skills.

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