How to Describe Weaknesses in Job Interviews

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Human resources professionals, recruiters and others who interview job applicants seem to have a fondness for that much-dreaded question about how you would describe your own weaknesses. As much as those hiring love to ask the question, almost every job seeker hates to answer it. Describe your weaknesses is a double-edged sword of a question. There is no one right answer to it. However it is definitely one of the most important questions you will face in a job interview.

Before a job interview it is critical to have a response ready for the weakness question. Failing to answer the question or giving a lame off-the-cuff answer will not cut it. Those who are hiring know that the weakness question is no secret and therefore they expect you to have a prepared response.

When describing weaknesses in a job interview, keep the following tips in mind:

- Don’t describe perfectionism as a weakness. Once thought to be the perfect answer, it is overused and is clich├ęd.

- All humans have weaknesses, including the person interviewing you, therefore choose to describe an actual weakness that you have and give real examples. However, be wary about which weakness you choose to divulge. Do not mention weaknesses that make you look like an absolute terrible choice as an employee. Avoid talking about mental instability or things that would make someone question your values, morals and integrity. The weakness however should be one that is work-relevant.

- Be sure to mention exactly how you are working to overcome your weakness. It shows great character that you are self-aware enough to be conscious of your weaknesses and have a plan for overcoming or compensating for them.

- Describing past weaknesses and showing how you have overcome them is always a great way to treat this question.

Remember to keep in mind the type of job you are applying for and the skills required for it. Mentioning the fact that you are non-confrontational may not be a plus for someone in a customer service type of position, but may be okay for a computer programmer. Being talkative may be a drawback for an accountant or actuary. However, it is definitely a plus for a salesperson. Choosing a weakness that is actually a strength in disguise for the job you are applying on is a very smart tactic.

Some weaknesses that are acceptable to divulge, depending on the job you are applying for and the way you present them include the following:

- Competitive
- Impatient
- Too Demanding
- Lack of Organization
- Not Detail Oriented
- Critical
- Sensitive

When dealing with the weakness question in an interview, above all be honest. It is easy to detect lies, especially for those who frequently interview potential job candidates. Have a great answer ready and answer the question with confidence. After all, we really do all have weaknesses. Being able to admit to it and show your dedication to self-improvement proves that you are great employee material.

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3 comments

  1. Eric of International Careers

    “therefore choose to describe an actual weakness that you have and give real examples”

    Very well said Jim. Recruiters wanted to know: a. if you’re aware of yourself, b. honesty, and c. professionalism in this common interview question of weakness.

  2. Susan Ireland

    People get very nervous when they answer this question (even more nervous than when answering other questions). Practise your answer before the meeting so you can stay calm and speak naturally during the interview. And, if you’re a fast talker, slow down so the interviewer can understand what you’re saying and get a word in edge-wise.