How to answer 'What is Your Biggest Weakness?' interview question

How to answer 'What is Your Biggest Weakness?' interview question

By Will Capper

Answering the interview question ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ can be quite a challenge, particularly when you have put all your preparation into how to best showcase your strengths and expertise as opposed to your, potentially, negative personality traits.

However, ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ is an interview question that shows no signs of going away and it is always best to be prepared to answer this tricky question with a thoughtful response as opposed to being thrown off and giving an interview ending answer.  

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Navigating this interview question with a positive spin can seem an almost impossible task, you are being asked to take one of your weaknesses and spin it into a positive answer within an interview setting!  However, by taking time to reflect on your character in conjunction with assessing the requirements of the role you are applying for, you can take the opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants with your response.

As with most interview advice, the key to impressing with this tricky interview question lies in the preparing and identifying weaknesses that also convey strengths.  If you are able to demonstrate a level of introspection, this gets across to the interviewer that you are aware that no one is perfect, we all have failings but you can demonstrate that you are self-aware to realise that there is always the chance for personal and professional growth, no matter how experienced an individual is.

Take time to read the below examples of answers you can give to ‘what is your biggest weakness’ and use one or two as a way of preparing yourself to answer that question when it is proposed to you in an interview

Sometimes I can get caught up in the details

Being detail-oriented is typically considered a strong skill to have, however fixating excessively on project specifics can also be considered a weakness. Therefore when providing this answer in your response, firstly highlight how being detail oriented has led to positive outcomes in your previous roles, then go on to say how there has been the occasion where you have got ‘stuck in the weeds’ on a particular task, before finally detailing how you are working on this by focusing on the bigger picture.

I can sometimes struggle to delegate tasks

Being able to delegate is an important skill that is required in most positions, especially as you increase in seniority.  However it is not uncommon to find it difficult to delegate a task and instead have a tendency to take on too much responsibility.  It is therefore worth making the point that although you believe in ensuring a high quality / standard of work, you also recognise that taking on too much can lead to burnout and inefficiency. Therefore in addressing this weakness, you have put in place a reporting structure that enables you have greater trust in your team members, by understanding their strengths and weaknesses and assigning tasks accordingly. This not only relieves your workload but also enables your colleague to advance their career development.

I find it difficult to say 'no' to others

Finding it difficult to say ‘no’ in a work environment is again, not an uncommon problem.  On the whole, we want to impress our colleagues and managers and by saying no, we can sometimes feel it will show us in a negative light when vying for a promotion or pay review.  However, taking on too many tasks to the point where you are unable to cope is obviously going to lead to negative outcomes (for both your company and your personal wellbeing) over instead of sensibly managing expectations.

Therefore if you are to give ‘difficulty in saying no’ as a response to the question, discuss how you have proactively worked on this, by setting clear boundaries and communicating effectively with colleagues and supervisors.  Through improving your time management skills, you are now confident in respectfully addressing your ability to take on additional work and working within the required deadlines.  Being able to provide / set realistic expectations is one of the keys to success when working with others.

I do not enjoy public speaking

Studies have shown that the vast majority of people do not enjoy public speaking, so it is very likely that if you were to give this as an answer in an interview, the interviewer would immediately emphasise with you. 

Unless the job you are applying for actively requires public speaking as one of its main functions, highlighting public speaking as a weakness is unlikely to end up in negative interview feedback, especially when you can explain how you are working towards managing this.  For example, you can reference that when you are presenting to large groups, and begin to feel nervous, you have recognised that this can hinder effective communication.  However, in order to overcome this, you have been putting yourself in more situations where you are required to speak in public whilst also remembering that instead of focusing on giving perfect speech, you should instead focusing on effectively conveying your message.

Taking criticism to heart

It's not easy to be told they are wrong or that you could have done better on a project that you have spent a lot of time on, and for many people, receiving that criticism can stay with them for a long time, negatively affecting their future development.  However in order to grow, both professionally and personally, we all have to take on board criticism to enable us to improve upon our experience and progress in our lives. 

So although your weakness may be being sensitive to criticism, you can demonstrate that you have address this by focusing on separating constructive feedback from personal criticism and using it as an opportunity to develop yourself.  Instead of waiting for feedback, you can state that you now actively seek it from colleagues and supervisors as you are able to recognise how it can help to improve your overall performance.

To conclude, no matter the answer you end up providing to the ‘what is your biggest weakness’, it is always important to keep these points in mind:

  • Be honest and select a genuine weakness

  • Ensure the weakness you mention is relevant to the job

  • Present a problem and its solution to showcase your personal growth and determination

  • Share insights you've gained from addressing this weakness