What’s Your Biggest Weakness? | Answering Difficult Interview Questions

Posted May 30, 2014

At some point in almost every interview you have, you’ll come across the dreaded “strengths and weaknesses” question.  You’ve got the strengths part nailed down, but like most people you tend to stumble on the “What is your biggest weakness?” side of the question.

3 Ways to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

Share something you have overcome.
An interviewer knows that not everyone is perfect, so don’t try to fool them into thinking you don’t have any weaknesses.  Instead, give an example of something you’ve struggled with in the past, but have made a strong effort to overcome.  If you can give an honest example of a time when you noticed the weakness in your work and what actions you’ve taken to improve on it, you’ll come across as strong, capable, and in charge of your career development.  For example if your weakness is public speaking you might say:

“When I first started my internship at Company A, I struggled with public speaking while delivering presentations.  Realizing that public speaking isn’t my strong suit, I enrolled in public speaking classes and asked for more leadership opportunities for a chance to practice speaking in front of people.  I’ll probably always have room for improvement in this area, but I’m now more comfortable when addressing a crowd.”

A similar tactic is to address something that was once a weakness, but that you now point to as an accomplishment for having figured out how to overcome it.

Giving an honest answer with supporting evidence is a great way to win over the interviewer’s approval.

Address uncertainties in your skill set.
One of the reasons interviewers ask about your weaknesses is to help weed out candidates that may not be fit for the job.  Therefore, your answer shouldn’t be a big flaw that could make someone not want to hire you.  However, if you already know an employer has a doubt about parts of your background experience, use this question to address those

If your background doesn’t completely match up with the requirements in the job description, you can talk about something they already know is an obstacle.  For example, if the job description is looking for someone with inside sales experience and your background is mainly in fundraising, talk about how while you don’t have direct sales experience, the skills you’ve gained in fundraising are the same skills required to do inside sales.

Put a weakness in a positive light.
Choose a weakness that can be explained with positive words.  If you’re stubborn or have trouble delegating, explain it in the following way:

“Previous coworkers would say I’m very particular in my work and tend to have a hard time letting a project leave my hands until it’s completely finished.  However, I’ve found that sometimes it’s better to get feedback on a project before it’s complete to help create a balance between doing it right the first time and being more open to input”.

This answer shows that you are self-aware and recognize an area you need to improve on, but at the same time are very diligent and like to make sure only the best work is delivered.

The secret to answering the weakness questions is to be honest, sound genuine, and always end on a positive note.  Give your answer quickly and smoothly to avoid taking too much time talking about your flaws.  The last thing you want to do is dig yourself into a hole.

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