Last updated on March 19th, 2020 at 07:32 am

The HR managers should be able to uncover your weaknesses without ever inquiring about them.

That’s what we get paid for–for telling the strengths and weaknesses of each job candidate, and for choosing the best person for the given job offer.

So why do we ask about your weaknesses?


Good and bad interviewers, experts and beginners

Job interview in an international corporation. An older manager and his colleague sit on one side of the table, and a young woman, a job candidate sits on the another one.First of all, not every interviewer is skilled in HR, not every person leading interviews is a professional recruiter.

If you interview for a position in a small company, or if you are lucky to meet an inexperienced  person in your interview, some questions they will ask you won’t necessarily make any sense…

The average interviewer can actually inquire about your weaknesses for two reasons:

  • They really try to learn more about your weaknesses (since they cannot identify them without your help).
  • They found the question on the list of  common interview questions (for example here), and they want to create some pressure in an interview, because they know that most job seekers do not like this question.

And why do the skilled recruiters inquire about your weaknesses?


Testing your attitude to work, and to yourself

An illustration of a scene from a job interview. An applicant, a male in his thirties, hands his resume to the HR manager, a woman in her thirties. Both people are in a good mood, smiling.

I believe that in most cases, I can tell the strengths and weaknesses of a person after talking to them for five minutes, sometimes even for less (in terms of their soft skills, intelligence, and also some professional capacities).

But I may still use the question about weaknesses, because it helps me to:

  • Understand the level of your confidence. Good job applicant should know their weaknesses, and they shouldn’t struggle admitting having some. Knowing our weaknesses and our strengths is essential if we are to choose the right job for us, and to progress in both our professional career and personal life.
  • See your attitude to work and personal development. Do you consider  your weakness a huge problem, and obstacle you cannot overcome? Or do you see in it an opportunity to improve yourself, and to become even a better professional in your career field?


Prepare your answer upfront

To prepare your answer, you should think about your strengths and weaknesses from both personal and professional perspective. What have you struggled with in your past jobs, in the school, in your family life.

Was it communication, diligence, IT, empathy, attention to detail, meeting deadlines? What was it?

If you can not identify your weaknesses (or if you feel like it would be great to get an opinion from someone else, who doesn’t wear pink glasses when looking at you), ask a good friend or your colleague. And tell them to be very honest with you.

Everyone of us has some weaknesses, and you should end up at least with three or four things on your list.


Pick weaknesses that are not essential for the job you try to get

Once you have the list of your weaknesses, you should pick one or two that are not essential for the job, weaknesses that would not jeopardize your chances to do it well.

An HR director tests the job applicant with the question about their weaknesses. Now he is quiet, holding his pen close to his mouth, waiting for the applicant's reaction.

For example, if you interview for a job in sales, customer service, or education, you can say that you are over-friendly with customers (clients/students), or that you struggle with managing other people.

The first weakness may be actually considered a strength (depends on the interviewer, but nobody will consider it a showstopper), while the second one is not essential for good teacher or sales representative (you will not manage people in your new job, so there is no need to have good management skills, unless we talk about time management, of course :)).

Another example: If you interview for a position in IT, you can say that you are not assertive, or that you struggle a bit with interpersonal skills.

Since you will deal mostly with computers, and your communication will be in form of email messages, these weaknesses are not essential, and would not hinder your chances to succeed in an interview..

* Do not forget to check: Why should we hire you? Analysis and sample answers to another dreaded interview question.


Follow up with your efforts to improve

Everyone has some weaknesses. What the skilled interviewers want to hear is that you are aware of your strong and weak points, and that you try to get rid of your weaknesses, or at least to improve on them.

Learning never ends for a great employee. They can always become better in what they do–in both their professional and personal life. Nobody is perfect, and nobody ever will be.

It is our desire to improve every day that distinguishes us from average workers, from people who are content with their skills and abilities, and never try to learn anything new…


Sample answers to “what are your weaknesses” interview question

Surprised HR managers do not trust the answer of a job candidate, when they talk about their weaknesses. Their faces betray signs of disbelief.In an ideal case, you should follow the guide I just outlined.

You should think about your weaknesses, and choose for your interview answer the weaknesses that are not essential for the job.

If you struggle to do so, however, you can find below some sample answers. Each answer is intended for a specific situation and job. If you decide to use one of the answers in your interview, proceed with caution.

You can certainly fool some recruiters and HR managers, but if you happen to run into a skilled interviewer, they will easily spot your lie, and it will ruin your credibility in their eyes… Let’s proceed to the answers.


Fresh graduate, applying for an entry level marketing role in a corporation

I would say that my biggest weakness is the lack of experience. I tried to be active at school, I designed campaigns for school projects, and also for myself. Still, I lack the practice with designing campaigns for real market conditions.

Actually that is one of the reasons why I applied for a job with you, because you work on many projects and serve clients from all around the world. I believe that I can gain experience with you.

* Special Tip: Check also answers to other tough interview questions. Strongly recommended especially for fresh graduates who have little experience with interviewing for the job.


High school student/graduate applying for their first job, manual labor in a retail store

Four people wait for their job interview, sitting on black chairs, holding their job applications in their hands. I really struggle with computers, at least when I compare my skills with the average person from our generation.

Since I have always spent most of my time outside, and in the nature, I didn’t really learn to work with many computer programs.

But I understand it is important to improve on my computer skills, and I plan to attend evening classes as soon as I have the job, and have some money to invest in my education.


Man in his thirties, trying to get a job of a software developer

Bad communication skills are my weakness. Since I am so passionate about computers and software development, I spend a lot of time online, and working with the code. I lack social contact, and therefor I sometimes do not know what to say, or how to act, when meeting someone for the first time.

But I believe that I can improve on my communication skills, and the job in your company is a great opportunity to do so. Work in a small team should help me to improve my communication and social skills.

* Check also: IT & Engineering interview questions – Pick your job from the list and learn what questions you will face in your interview.


Teacher job applicant, talking about her weaknesses

An interview in a Japanese corporation. We can see male and female interviewer on the picture. My biggest weakness is that I get sometimes emotionally involved, that I can not separate my personal and professional life.

I am a perfectionist–which is perhaps another weakness, and I always try to do my best for every child, for every student.

If things do not go as planned, or if there are problems in the classroom, I often consider it a personal failure, and it affects me negatively in work. But I am aware of this weakness, and I try to improve, try to set some boundaries and keep some distance. It is not easy for me, but I can honestly say that I have improved over the years.

Special Tip no.2: Download an exclusive one-page long summary of this article in a .PDF format, print it, or check it out anytime later when working on your interview preparation:

exclusive summary, PDF

Woman applying for a managerial position

Sometimes I am impatient, and I may demand too much from other people. I know that everyone is different, that people have good and bad days in work, and that we can not expect them to deliver their best every single day.

Still, my sense for responsibility and my desire to achieve the best possible results for my employer may drive me to strange decisions and conclusions. This led to some conflicts with my subordinates in my last job. I am aware of this problem, however, and I work on eliminating it.

* Applying for a managerial job? Check the interview questions for managers.


Man applying for a job of a mechanical engineer in a big automotive company

I would say I have two main weaknesses. Of course we can improve on everything we do, and I always try to become a better engineer. Two areas where I see the biggest room for improvement are my management skills, and an ability to focus on the big picture.

I am a detail-oriented person, and I sometimes lose my focus because of that. It may take me longer to complete the project, because I spend a lot of time trying to achieve perfection of the design.

This is something I really try to work on, to ensure I’d meet deadlines and do not waste time in work with something that isn’t really important, or something that is a task of other employees, such as testers and quality engineers.


Different interviews, same attitude

Job applicant gesticulates with his hands, as he tries to narrate his weaknesses in an job interview. We can see only the hands and his blue shirt. As you can see in our short selection of sample answers, a weakness that is essential for one job can be completely irrelevant for another.

What is more, a smart job applicant uses even his weaknesses to show his excellent attitude to work, to life, and to other people.

Show some humility. Admit your weaknesses, and tell us how you try to improve on them. Convince us that you understand your role, and that you always try to improve on both your strengths and weaknesses…

Continue your preparation with other tough interview questions:

  • What motivates you in work? – Motivation is a deciding factor in many interviews, especially when we talk about entry level positions and manual labor. Learn how to answer this difficult interview question to make a great impression on your interviewers.
  • Interview Success Package – Multiple brilliant answers to 30 most common interview questions, and a guide on how to win the hearts of your interviewers. If you interview for a job tomorrow, and do not have much time to prepare for the most important meeting of this year, you should check our package. In a few hours from now, you will be ready to ace your interview.
  • How to answer interview questions – Our verbal communication is just 10% of the message we send over. Ninety percent is nonverbal communication–the way we look, talk, shake hands, sit on a chair, etc. Learn what emotions and attitudes you should present in your interview, trying to get the job.
  • How to overcome interview nerves – Anxiety can kill your chances in an interview. Get rid of it and succeed.

Matthew Chulaw
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