No one likes trick questions and this one has got to be the worst one yet. I know employers don’t want to hear any real weaknesses cause it’s a job interview for crying out loud, but they do want to see how you handle yourself in situations that may not be ideal.
The following Ask Redditors responded to the question, “When an employer asks ‘What is your biggest weakness?’, what are some good responses?”
Disclaimer: I can’t guaranteed you’ll get the job but these may help with the interview jitters.
For more responses, check out the original thread at the end of the article.
An excerpt from Alison Green’s book, How To Get A Job (Secrets of a Hiring Manager):
If you’ve ever claimed that your biggest weakness is that you’re a perfectionist or that you work too hard, this section is for you.
Look, the jig is up. We all know about that old strategy of framing something that’s really a strength as a weakness. And it annoys us.
A good hiring manager wants to know about your weaknesses not because they’re trying to trip you up, but because they genuinely care about making sure you’re a good fit for the job. They don’t want to put you an a job you’ll struggle in, and they definitely don’t want to have to fire you a few months from now.
You should formulate your answer in two parts. First, think seriously about your weak points. What have you struggled with in the past? What have past managers encouraged you to do differently?
Part two: What are you doing about it?
Your answer in the interview should consist of both parts. It might sound something like this: When I first started in the work world, I found that I wasnt as naturally organized as I wanted to be. Without a system to keep track of everything I was juggling, I had trouble keeping all the balls in the air. So now I make lists religiously and check them every morning and every afternoon to make sure that nothing is slipping through the cracks and all my priorities are correct. Ill never give up my lists, because I know that without them, my natural state is a less organized one.
I like this example because it takes a weakness — disorganization — that normally would raise a huge red flag for me, and instead shows how the person is neutralizing it as a problem.
At my last job when I was asked this I said “I can’t fold a fitted bed sheet.”
Everyone kind of tittered and I said “It’s true, every week I pull that sheet out of the dryer and think, “this is the week” and then I fail. But I keep trying every week”.
I got the job.
And yes, I’ve watched videos, I’ve had people show me in person-I still can’t get it right.
I recently went with “I sometimes take on too much work myself rather than delegating to other people”. I then follow it up with how I’ve worked on it and had to get a lot better at it in my last job.
My stock answer to this has always been:
“I can get bored easy and become unmotivated unless I’m fairly busy.”
It’s never let me down yet, although I’m more the interviewer than the interviewee these days and would never ask this question in an interview.
I have a card in my pocket at all times that says “Otherwise” Any time someone tells me something I don’t want to hear, while I am pulling it out, I say, “This says otherwise”
Gets a good laugh from people.
“My weakness is that I work too hard out of the gate, because I have too high standards. But don’t worry, I’m working on becoming lazy so I won’t burn out.”
It can be anything, as long as it’s realistic and as long as you follow up with ways you’ve worked on fixing it or improving.
For example, I always say that I have a hard time with time management and prioritizing different tasks, but then I follow up immediately with how I’ve worked on ranking different projects based on certain criteria (deadline, expected time to finish, etc.) and sorting them that way. Compartmentalizing and stuff. Compartmentalizing is a great word. Throw that in there.
Pick anything relatively innocuous (stay away from “person looks at me wrong, I waste ’em”) but still plausible (“I just work too dang hard”).
Any normal, reasonable human character flaw will work. “I can be impatient with people who don’t grasp or follow things as quickly as I do.” “I overanalyze tasks before I begin them, which leads me to procrastinate actually starting the work.” “I do a lot of processing and reflecting internally before I speak, which can lead people to believe I’m not contributing to a conversation.”
Then – this is the key – tack on a piece about how you’ve learned to manage or compensate for it. “I usually remind myself that I was new at a task once myself, and what may seem second nature to me is less apparent to others. In fact, I take note of the questions the other person asks and develop a Frequent Asked Questions or a teaching tool.” “I’ve found it helps if I pick a basic first step and get started, and create deadlines down the line for making major decisions about the task. This helps me keep some flexibility while still making progress.” “I usually make a point of saying ‘these are just my preliminary thoughts, but…” and then sharing a little bit about my reaction.
The purpose of this question isn’t to force you to convey the impression that you’re flawless. No one is. It’s to check and see if you’re self-aware about what your limitations are and to see whether you’re actively trying to improve.
Source: I’m HR.
“I have absolutely no patience for office politics, conspiracies, bullying, micro management, or corporate cheerleading. I want to work somewhere friendly, open and fair, where I can treat colleagues as equals and be pretty much left to do my job – in return, I can do it extremely well.”
Said this at the interview for my current job, been here a year and a half and everything is good. I’ve worked some places where everyone was horrible to each other, and it just isn’t worth the cost to your soul.
“My biggest weakness is that sometimes in interviews, I have absolutely no idea how to answer some of the questions.”
I always get the job.
“I suck at answering that question, so instead I’ve been learning Excel.”
And then I show them a spreadsheet where they type in their quarterly earnings results, and the spreadsheet explains that I’m an alcoholic.
I used it every time. Usually we joke about it and then we move on to the start date.
“I’m lazy. Which means I will find the quickest and best solution to complete a task so I don’t have to do it twice.”
This person actually got hired.
“What is your greatest strength?”. My greatest strength is my tenacity. When faced with a problem, I’m going to solve it, no matter how long it takes. My biggest weakness? My tenacity. Sometimes I forget and refuse to ask for or realize I need help.
They offered me the job three hours later.
“My skin is easily pierced or broken. I feel an outer shell or armor could fix this issue but it’s not entirely socially acceptable. However, now that I think about it, it seems weird that I’d allow the opinion of others to dictate my safety.
So I guess my real weakness is that I worry too much about what others think about me.”
“That’s easy. I have an awful memory. I always have. I forget names, dates, facts and figures all the time. Because of this I’ve learned not to rely on my memory for information but have cultivated a rigorous technique of documentation. Everything goes in my notes, on my calendar, in my phone and so forth. I set reminders, I review data constantly. If I’m meeting with a client I will put their name or names at the top of my notepad to ensure I can address them correctly. Having a poor memory can come off as disrespectful if not treated correctly but I have taken every possible measure that I can, I rely on technology and notes rather than my own memory for anything of importance.”
“I feel like my biggest weakness is _____. That’s why I’m applying here, I believe that this position will give me a chance to develop those skills.”
Also, when saying it, try to pick something that isn’t going to be of MAJOR importance at the new job. For example, I was applying for a job with a major nation-wide company, I told them that marketing was not a strong point for me…but since I was applying for a position outside of the marketing department, it wouldn’t matter. I just implied that I could learn from what the company was doing.
“My greatest weakness is my attention span. I start a lot of projects and rarely finish them. I really have to set reminders all the time in order to get stuff done.”
Honest and work related.
I was asked this in an interview earlier this year and replied with,
“My biggest weakness is that I’ve never worked for this company before. So I have no idea what sort of expectations you may have of an employee, or what exactly I’ll have to do to be absolutely perfect in my job. But I’m the most hard working person you’ll meet, and I won’t stop trying to be the best employee until I absolutely nail it, even if it means working for longer than you expect me to.”
Got the job, and I’ve been nailing it since.
In the past, I’ve said:
“I’m a big proponent of ‘Work smart, not hard.’ The only problem is sometimes I think I’m smarter than I am. I’m working on realizing that there are times when processes are designed the way they are for a reason and often times they are designed by people who are smarter than me. I’m learning that sometimes I need to dial back and take the proper route, even if I feel like it may be less efficient at the time.”
When an interviewer asks this question they want to hear a thoughtful answer as well as seeing that you are aware of your weaknesses and are addressing them.
“I’m not a take charge kind of person. I prefer to follow orders. Unless absolutely necessary and I know that by taking charge of a situation it will make things run smoothly and more efficient”.
Also: “I sometimes have a difficult time thinking outside the box and tend to follow established procedures”.
These usually work for me. And I’m able to sell them pretty well because I’m a veteran so “I’m used to doing what I’m told” and “I don’t rock the boat. Ever” is sort of a given. It also lets a potential boss know I’m not looking to replace them or “outshine” them or their friends. When I did this in my last interview the hiring manager was visibly pleased with those answers and I was hired on the spot for more money than I asked for.