List of Weaknesses: 8 Things to Say in an Interview
Updated 21 March 2023
In an interview, it can be challenging to answer the question, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ You need to find a way to discuss the skills, talents and capabilities that make you the strongest candidate for the job while still answering honestly. Positively framing your weaknesses can be a difficult task, but when you combine self-awareness with an action plan, you can quickly stand apart from other job applicants.
In this article, we look at the common interview question, ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ and offer some tips and advice on how to answer it effectively.
Example weaknesses you can use in an interview
The key to preparing for this question is to identify the weaknesses that still communicate your strengths. This shows the interviewer that you can analyse your abilities and find areas of opportunity where there is room for growth. Here are a few examples of weaknesses you can mention in an interview:
I focus too much on the details
Being detail-oriented is typically a good thing, but if you tend to spend too much time on the specifics of a project, it could also be considered a weakness. By mentioning that you focus too much on details, you are showing your interviewer that you are capable of helping the organisation avoid even minor mistakes.
Be sure to explain how you are making improvements in this area by looking at the overall situation. While employers may not love the idea of having an employee who is preoccupied with minute details, a candidate who assures quality and strives for balance can be a great asset.
Example: ‘My greatest weakness is that I sometimes spend too much time analysing the small details of a project. I have been striving to improve in this area by checking in with myself at regular intervals and giving myself a chance to refocus on the bigger picture. That way, I can still ensure high-quality work without getting so caught up in the details that it affects my productivity or the team's ability to meet the deadline.’
I have a hard time letting go of a project
When you have spent a great deal of time and effort on something, it is easy to feel apprehensive about marking it as a completed task or passing it on to another team. There is always room for improvement, and some people tend to over-criticise their work or attempt to make last-minute changes, which can threaten a project's timeline. At the same time, however, last-minute reviews can help eliminate errors and make for a more refined finished product.
If you have this weakness, explain how you are striving to improve by giving yourself a deadline for all revisions and being proactive about changes rather than waiting until the last minute.
Example: ‘My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have a hard time letting go of a project. I am the biggest critic of my work, and I can always find something that needs to be improved or changed. To help myself improve in this area, I give myself deadlines for revisions and ensure that I am not making changes at the last minute.’
I have trouble saying ‘no’
Helping colleagues with projects and adequately managing your workload is an artful balance. From an employer's perspective, someone who accepts all requests seems dedicated and eager – yet this can also denote someone who does not know their limits and ends up needing help or deadline extensions to finish their work.
If you are eager to take on new projects and cannot bring yourself to say 'no', tell the interviewer how you are working to better manage your time and priorities. For example, you might say that you started organising your tasks and setting more realistic expectations for yourself as well as those around you.
Example: ‘My greatest weakness is that I sometimes have trouble saying 'no' to requests and end up taking on more than I can handle. In the past, this has led me to feel stressed or burned out. To help myself improve in this area, I started using a project management app so that I can visualise how much work I have at any given time and know whether or not I have the capacity to take on more.’
I become impatient when projects run beyond the deadline
While expressing outward stress or frustration over missed deadlines can be considered a weakness, employers value workers who place importance on deadlines and strive to keep projects within the planned timeline. If you are using this as your example weakness in your job interview, frame your answer to focus on how you appreciate work that is completed on time, and discuss the ways you are improving your processes to get work done more efficiently.
Example: ‘My greatest weakness is that I get impatient when projects run past their deadlines. I am a stickler for due dates and get uncomfortable when I cannot complete work on time. To avoid this, I have started being more proactive and paying attention to how I am reacting to make sure that I am being motivational and helping to foster efficiency in the workplace.’
I could use more experience in…
Each candidate has areas that need further expertise. Maybe it is something specific like building pivot tables in Excel, or perhaps it is a skill like math, writing or public speaking. Whatever the case, sharing something you want to improve upon shows the interviewer that you are self-aware and like to challenge yourself. Make sure, however, that you do not answer with a weakness that is essential to your specific role.
A few common areas people need experience in include:
providing constructive criticism
specific programs, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe Photoshop.
I sometimes lack confidence
Lack of confidence is a common weakness, especially among entry-level candidates. Experiencing a lack of confidence can sometimes cause inefficiencies in your work. For example, you might feel too unqualified to speak up at an important meeting when your idea could help the team achieve a goal. While being humble when working with others can be helpful, it is also necessary to maintain a particular amount of confidence in order to do your job at an optimal level.
If this is the weakness you choose to present in your interview, emphasise why you value confidence, your understanding of the value you offer, and ways you have practised displaying confidence in the workplace to improve your abilities.
Example: ‘In the past, I have sometimes struggled with confidence. To work on overcoming this weakness, I started a running document of the impact I have made on my team and at my organisation to better understand why I should be confident about my skills and unique talents.
I have also made it a point to voice my ideas and opinions during meetings when I feel they are appropriate and add value to the conversation. Because of this, our team ended up adopting my idea for a new financing process, which resulted in a 10% decrease in time taken to plan our annual budget.’
I have trouble asking for help
Asking for help is a necessary skill both when you lack expertise in a particular area and when you are feeling burned out or cannot handle your workload. Knowing when and how to ask for help shows strong self-awareness and helps the organisation by getting ahead of possible inefficiency. While having a strong work ethic and being independent are positive qualities, it is still essential to learn when to ask for help.
If it has been difficult to ask for help in the past, explain why you know it is beneficial to ask for help and the ways you have tried to improve this skill since then.
Example: ‘I am independent and enjoy working quickly, so it has been difficult for me to ask for help when I need it. I have learned that it's much more beneficial for me and the business to reach out when I don't understand something or feel burned out with my workload. I also understand that many experts around me have specific knowledge and skills that can make my work even better. Though I am still working on this, I have been able to produce more high-quality work as a result of getting help from those around me.’
It has been difficult for me to work with certain personalities
Even the most flexible people can have trouble working with others who have specific characteristics or personality traits. Having excellent teamwork skills also means having a keen awareness of how you work with others and ways you can adjust your approach to better serve the organisation. If this has been a weakness of yours in the past, explain the personality types you have had trouble working with and quickly explain why. Then, discuss the ways you adjusted your communication or work style to work more effectively with those individuals.
Example: ‘In the past, I have found it challenging to work with aggressive personality types. While I understand that having a diverse group of personalities can make a business stronger, I tend to quiet my ideas and opinions around louder colleagues. To combat this, I have made it a point to spend more time with the colleagues I feel less comfortable around. By learning more about them, their communication styles and their motivations, my ability to collaborate with these personality types has improved, allowing us to equally contribute our strengths and skills.’
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