3 weaknesses job interview examples to answer the “greatest weakness” question

The “what is your greatest weakness” question pops up during most interviews in one form or another. While it ay seem like the toughest question (because who wants to talk about what they are bad at while they are trying to make a good impression?) it’s actually not as complex as you think. You should use these 3 weaknesses job interview examples to help you figure out the best way for you in particular to answer this question.

According to  interview expert Cheryl Johnson, Chief Human Resource Officer at Paylocity, the best answers to the “greatest weakness” question in a job interview have three key elements in common: self-awareness, honesty, and a growth mindset. These 3 weaknesses job interview examples all contain those key elements.

3 weaknesses job interview examples

Example 1: “My strengths, when taken to the extreme, can actually become an obstacle for people. One of my strengths is focus, which means I’m a dog on a bone and I will get things done no matter what. This is a great strength unless it’s not the thing I’m supposed to be working on. This can become problematic if I’m not working on something you want me to work on because that focus will mean I will get it done even if I shouldn’t.
How I’ve been combatting this is by keeping a list of tasks assigned to me broken up into a daily and weekly basis. I will check in with my manager to make sure I’m working on the right projects and headed in the right direction.”

Example 2: “Organization and time management are an issue for me. I often have challenges making sure I manage my time appropriately. As a result, here are the three steps I put in place to keep myself organized and manage my time effectively. Since implementing these tactics, I have not missed an interview and I have produced five extra articles per week.”

Example 3: “In the workplace I can be shy about providing constructive feedback to my colleagues and superiors because I have always been afraid of hurting others’ feelings. That being said, my last team was extremely dedicated to providing feedback to each other. We would have biweekly meetings in which we share the feedback we have for each other. Through these measures, and my growing maturity as a worker in this industry, I have learned that feedback isn’t offensive, but helpful to build my team as a whole. I have realized that my empathy can be extremely useful in providing thoughtful, productive feedback.”

Explanations for the 3 weaknesses job interview examples

Example 1 explanation: You are discussing your strengths, but at the same time being open and honest about how these strengths are sometimes weaknesses. This answer points to your strengths, making sure the hiring manager recognized them, but also is authentic in answering the question that they asked you. Like all answers to this question, this response finishes up by stating how you have been working on this weakness.

Example 2 explanation: If the job does not call for superior organization and time management skills, then this is a great answer for someone who struggles with these traits. By concluding the answer with an explanation of what you have been doing to improve your organization and time management skills, you show the hiring manager your ability to grow within the workplace. Having a growth mindset is the most important part for answering the “greatest weakness” question.

Example 3 explanation: This “greatest weakness” job interview example provides an honest answer about something you weren’t comfortable, or emotionally mature enough, to do in the workplace. The hiring manager will be grateful that you provided a thoughtful, real answer, and will be impressed that you have grown to overcome this fear in the workplace. This story allows your interviewer to see your growth from a timid employee to one who provides helpful feedback in an empathetic manner.

The best way to answer the “greatest weakness” question in a job interview

While this question may seem like it is about your greatest weakness, it is actually more about your awareness as a worker, according to Johnson.

“The way I answer this question is to talk about the things you’re going to see show up as things that you may need to coach me on or develop me on,” Johnson said.

The best way to answer the “greatest weakness” question is to actually be honest about your “area of opportunity” in the workplace.

The most impressive answers to this question are those that show the candidate is aware of their opportunities for improvement and express how they have taken actionable steps to work on those areas. Great workers are those who are constantly trying to improve, so expressing how you are currently growing in your career should impress a hiring manager, not scare them away.

As you can see from the 3 weaknesses job interview examples above, being open and honest about traits or skills that you are working on is the best way to answer this question. Like in the 3 weaknesses job interview examples, you want to make sure you close out your answer by expressing how you have already begun to improve on this “weakness.”

If not answered correctly, this question can actually hurt a candidate and turn into an interview fail. Check out the two scenarios in which your answer to the “greatest weakness” question could scare away a hiring manager:

  • If you don’t offer ways in which you are working to improve, you are leaving the interviewer with a potentially concerning observation about you as an employee.
  • If the trait you describe as a “weakness” is the most important trait or skill for a person who holds this role to have. Make sure you have a strong understanding of the job description and steer clear of listing any of the required or desired traits and skills.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter for Ladders News.