If returning to work after the Christmas break is adding to your January blues, then perhaps it’s time to start looking for a new job.

You’ve seen your dream role, sent in your CV and completed your telephone interview. Now you’ve been invited for a face to face interview. Whether this is being done remotely, or in person, being a skilled interviewee is key to you receiving a job offer.

One question that candidates often fail to prepare adequately for is this one; “Tell me about your weaknesses”.

This is a tricky one, and trips up many job interviewees.  How do you talk about your shortcomings, without sounding like you’d be hopeless on the job?

Why is the ‘weakness’ question important?

“Tell me about your weaknesses” is not just a filler question designed to keep you on your toes.  It’s important, and one that lets the interviewer know you can face adversity and deal with it positively.

For you, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate to your employer that you can take constructive criticism and learn from it. It shows that you are willing to make changes based on advice, and that you respond with resilience to challenges thrown your way.

After all, having the ability to pick yourself up, and crack on with the job is a significant strength. And one that any employer would welcome in its employees.

two casually dressed women sit talking across a table

How do I answer, “What are your weaknesses?”

This question is evaluating your response to the challenges you have faced in your professional work. You may like to look back at recent appraisals when preparing for your interview.

These are great examples of where your boss has identified an area of where you could improve or is a challenge. It also gives you the space to address how you have attempted to resolve it. For example, if your boss questioned your confidence and willingness to contribute to team meetings, did you take steps to remedy this?  In other words…how have you responded to the “weakness”?

When preparing, start by listing the things in your role that you have found challenging. Then once you have these, formulate a response for each based upon how you’ve addressed them, and what steps you’ve taken to improve.

Be Careful!

Before using these in an interview scenario, be sure that you have read the role description properly…ensuring you have taken note of all the “essential skills” listed by the employer.  These are the skills and attributes that are critical to your performance in the role. Make sure you don’t identify a “must have” as a skill you need to develop. Remember – the essential skills must be your strengths!

an african american candidate is being interviewed by two young professional women

What are your weaknesses? – What to avoid saying.

No one is perfect. Therefore, to respond with “I have no weaknesses. Nothing will stop me from doing a great job” isn’t an option you should consider.  To respond so will create an impression that you have no self-awareness, or are unable to identify or learn from their mistakes.

Hiring managers are also able to identify those “clever” candidates who reframe a strength and sell it as a weakness. For example, “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist”.

Instead, use genuine areas of development, but put them in a more positive light. Here are some ways to do this.

Identify your weakness when asked, then perhaps you could talk about how you may have done one of the following.

  • Take a class or get training.
  • Discover tools, such as apps, to track your time, schedule breaks or collaborate more smoothly.
  • Work with a mentor.
  • Engage in volunteer work to build a skill.
  • Join professional groups or industry associations.

What are your weaknesses? Some examples.

Here are some sample answers you may like to use as inspiration when you are asked “What are your weaknesses?” in your interview.

Sample 1

This response shows your interviewer you have recognised the areas where you could upgrade your skills, and the steps you have taken to address them.

“Despite always meeting my deadlines, I have had problems with procrastination in the past.  This meant that I always used to have to work long days to get the job done as I neared the deadline.  I decided I needed to address the problem, so I have taken project management and time management courses on line to help me manage my days better. I have learned how to better manage my time, and that to divide the work into more manageable chunks is more productive for me. Now, when I get a new assignment, I make a time managed plan. This ensures I am hitting smaller deadlines throughout the timeline of the project, instead of racing to meet one large one. As a result, I have come to always beat my deadlines”.

Sample 2

This response uses the requirements of the job to help you create your answer. Imagine the role to which you are applying is that of a web designer. The job description requires strong UI/UX design and software experience but has no mention of content creation.

“I have always worked on the design side of things in my previous role, and so I haven’t had much experience with content development, so this lack of exposure means this is a weakness of mine.  However, I am a quick learner, and eager to improve my skill set. I am sure that I could improve my writing skills if a job ever required me to do so.”

In this scenario, you have drawn out the essential skills as strengths, while ensuring that your weaknesses are not skills mentioned in the ad.

Young female bites down on her pencil in frustration

Do you need more help with managing the hiring process? The ‘Employees Advice’ section of our blog is filled with tips and interview best practices from our recruitment partners. We have helped our candidates through every stage of the hiring process, guiding them through telephone interviews, remote interviews and of course, back when we could, face to face interviews. Sound good…?

Here are a few quick links to get you started

Quick CV Wins.

10 Common CV mistakes to avoid.

How to ace your remote interview.

Our top video call interview tips.

Behavioural questions. 6 interview tips.

Our top 5 phone interview tips.

About the author: I work hard to find the best opportunities for my candidates and the best talent for my clients. My honest and pragmatic approach helps me to build lasting relationships and deliver real value.  I have extensive experience helping organisations overcome their critical challenges in the digital environment, and have worked with everything from start-ups to major global brands.

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