Interview Questions and Answers: Greatest Weakness

This interview question is designed to put interviewees on the spot. It's a personal assessment question like 'greatest strengths', but it has other elements. Some advisory books refer to it as one of the 'Reasons Not To Hire' interview questions.

There's a good reason for this interview question. Some people, despite years of being told by trainers and experts to avoid lying, still lie at job interviews. The interview question about 'weaknesses' is behavioral. How the interviewee answers is indicative of their behavior.

The 'weaknesses' interview question is actually a quality and personality check on the applicant. One of the methods of assessing applicants is to look for any evasive behavior or evasive sounding interview answers.

Advice of debatable quality usually tells interviewees to give a positive characteristic as a weakness, like 'I pay too much attention to detail.'

(That, as an interview answer, doesn't address the question fully. More questions are needed to understand it.)

Evasive-looking interview answers aren't good interview answers. The 'use a positive characteristic as a weakness' is partly right, but it's not the whole story. That's always assessed negatively. Any interview answers which dodge questions can't look good. You're strongly advised to stick to honesty at all times, regarding all interview questions.

In some cases competent people, who don't have any real weaknesses in actual job skills, have to answer this interview question as best they can. Despite that, they generally perform better than the evasive interview answers in assessments, because they're obviously not being evasive.

Describing weaknesses in your interview answer:

A weakness can be:

  • A lack of knowledge
  • A lack of experience
  • An opinion of a personal quality
  • A personal characteristic

But remember:

  • You're controlling the content of your interview answers.
  • You're being asked for an opinion of yourself, not a 'Reason Not To Hire'.
  • You can make it clear that your 'weakness' doesn't affect your suitability for the job.
  • It's misleading to assume that the 'weaknesses' interview question naturally counts against the applicant. A good answer gets a positive assessment. (The people who get jobs also get the same interview question.)

Example

This is a generic example of an effective interview answer to 'What are your weaknesses?'

'I don't believe I have any real weaknesses, in terms of the skills, experience or knowledge required for this position. I think the nearest thing I have to a weakness is that I like to do some personal quality control, because I know the issues in the job. I like to know I'm doing the job properly. If that's a weakness, that's mine.'

Analysis

This interview answer demonstrates:

  • Applicant is confident of skills, experience and knowledge
  • Applicant expressed concern for work standards
  • Applicant explained reason for personal quality control
  • Applicant isn't being evasive

The applicant also obviously deliberately reminded the interviewers of levels of experience in the course of the interview answer.