Interviews can be intimidating and stressful. It's a time for a prospective employer or school admissions counselor to evaluate you based on your accomplishments, personal qualities, employment history and the way that you speak about yourself. One of the most popular questions in an interview is, "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" If you've been on job interviews before, you've likely encountered the question. Whether you said something that you wish you hadn't or didn't have a satisfactory answer, the question about your "weaknesses" is likely something that could stand to be improved.
Fortunately, no matter what stage you are at in your employment or school journey, there is an opportunity for you to improve your answers to this often tricky question.
Job Interview Weakness Question
It may seem like a trap at first. No one in a job interview wants to speak about their weaknesses. Everyone knows a job interview is a time to shine, to talk about your accomplishments, what makes you an amazing employee, coworker and member of the industry in which you work. The same goes for school admission interviews which are designed to assess your appropriateness and fit for the program in question.
In either of these situations, your goal is to make yourself seem like the best possible candidate, the best fit and a strong contender for the position or for admittance. For those reasons, the popular response to the question, "What are your weaknesses?" tends to employ a strategy wherein the interviewee makes a strength sound like a weakness. This can be effective, but it has to be done with honesty and integrity.
Something like, "My weakness is that I work too hard," is too vague, too general and clearly is designed to make employers think that you are a hard worker without actually saying anything that would make them think so. This also has the added disadvantage of making it seem as though you think your interviewer won't notice what you're doing. This is a mistake that you should avoid at all costs.
What are a person's weaknesses? Think about your employment history and personal qualities. Do you have any weaknesses? The best job interview weaknesses examples come from real life. Have you been told that there are things that you need to improve? If so, find a way to phrase them so that they sound like a quality that you have noticed in yourself and that you are both willing and excited to improve.
One notable area to avoid is interpersonal conflict. If you have had conflicts with employees at your previous jobs that are based on your own actions, it is best to avoid mentioning this if you want to get the job. Likewise, if you've been caught breaking the law, stealing from your employer or committing any sort of crime, you will probably be required to disclose this to your employer. If this is the case, you may use that as a weakness: The fact that you made a terrible mistake in the past and are looking to correct it now.
Job Interview Weaknesses Examples
Popular answers to questions about weaknesses in a job setting tend to be focused on proving how hard of a worker the candidate is. Responses like, "My weakness is that I'm a perfectionist," or "I care too much," sound phony and also make it seem as though you might be hiding an actual weakness. You want to research good job interview weaknesses examples.
When an interviewer asks you for your weaknesses, they are looking for two things. First, they are looking to see if you do in fact have any negative qualities that would be problematic in the role for which they are considering you. The second reason they ask is that they want to hear you talk about yourself in negative way. Employers can tell a lot about an interviewee based on how he or she talks about things. This is why it's important to pick a genuine weakness or area for improvement but not one that could seriously call into question your competence for the position at hand.
For example, if the job you're interviewing for requires a lot of attention to detail, the ability to juggle multiple projects at once and prioritize independently, it's probably not a good idea to bring up that you have a tendency to forget to respond to emails, don't have a great "follow up" and often spend a lot of time on one task at the expense of other more time-sensitive work.
If these things are true about you, this might not be the right position for you, but more to the point, they are certainly not things that you want to bring up in an interview. Instead, look at the tasks you know you'll need to complete if you get this position.
Is there anything that you'll be required to do that's new to you? Are there any programs or equipment that you'll be working with that you haven't had to work with before? If so, these are great options to mention when disclosing your weaknesses. You can say, "A weakness I have is definitely my facility with Excel/PowerPoint/Raiser'sEdge, etc. I don't have a lot of experience, and I need to improve my skills." Appropriate teacher interview weaknesses are likely to be different from sales job interview weaknesses.
Another example is management. If you know that you are going to be in a management position, whether you will have several direct reports or only one single intern, managerial style and experience is always a good thing to bring up as a weakness. This is because managing people is very difficult, and most people, even seasoned managers high up in the hierarchy of an organization, face challenges when it comes to employee management.
Managing people is difficult because it presents an unresolvable dilemma in that most people want their employees to like them while simultaneously needing them to respect the authority and do the bidding of their employer. This creates tension because at best an employer/employee relationship is amicable, but there is always the potential for discord as the employee knows that he or she needs to make their boss happy, while the boss is under no such pressure in that relationship.
If the job you're interviewing for does require managing people, a good example of an answer to the question about your weaknesses is:
"One of my weaknesses is in managing people. I haven't had much experience, and I'm still learning to walk that line between supervisor and colleague."
"I have a hard time taking a hard line with the people that work for me. It's something I'm actively working on.
"I have a hard time knowing how to get the best work out of my employees without being an unpleasant taskmaster. This is something I'm working on, but it's certainly not a strength."
Interview Weaknesses Examples List
As mentioned above, interview weaknesses should be specialized and specific and not something that could automatically disqualify you from consideration for the position. Here is a list of examples of things you can potentially cite as weaknesses in an interview:
- Lack of familiarity with a computer program or other equipment
- Lack of management experience
- Lack of knowledge about the history of the industry
- Lack of knowledge about your company's main competitors
- Lack of experience delegating responsibility
- Lack of experience notifying a supervisor when you are overwhelmed or need help
- Discomfort with confrontations
- Discomfort with public speaking
- Lack of experience presenting in front of large groups
What Are a Person's Weaknesses?
You may ask, "What are a person's weaknesses?" Everyone has weaknesses, the trick is simply looking at the position you are trying to get, and choosing which one of the weaknesses would be the best to disclose. In general, a person's weaknesses are areas where they need improvement or more experience. In some cases though, there are inherent weaknesses that a person naturally has in regard to certain tasks or subjects.
A highly verbal person who works writing emails and creating communication documents might be weak in mathematics and have a tough time doing calculations in their head. In a sales interview, a candidate might express that he has a difficult time executing complicated projects with a lot of moving parts. This is unlikely to affect his ability to be hired, considering that he is going to be spending most of his time getting clients on board.
A teacher, on the other hand, might explain that she doesn't have a lot of experience with managing staff, and that's a weakness for her. This is unlikely to disqualify her from a position as a teacher since it's unlikely that she will be managing staff unless she's the head of a particular department.
In this way, a lack of experience can be framed as something the employee could learn on the job, and not as a blight that would disqualify them from employment.
Job Interview Strength Examples
The counterpoint to the question of weaknesses is the question about an employee's strengths. This is your chance to brag about yourself, to let the employee know exactly what it is that makes you such a good fit for this role in their company or organization. It may seem obvious that to answer this question you would simply say everything you could mention about yourself that you consider flattering.
However, there is a strategy even for talking positively about yourself, and it's important to present your strengths in a way that will make your potential employer take the kind of notice that you want them to. For example, you want to highlight strengths that are not only widely considered to be positive traits but that specifically will be brought to bear on your work in the organization.
Make sure you know exactly what tasks you will be expected to complete and the kinds of deliverables you will be expected to hand in, and then speak to your strengths that will help you to do the best possible job in those areas. If you're a fast typist, but your job is mostly going to require person-to-person interaction, bringing up your typing skills in the interview may make it seem as though you don't have any relevant strengths or that you don't understand what your role would actually be.
Similarly, if you can tell that attention to detail and being a prompt communicator is a key piece of your potential job description, it might not be to your advantage to stress that you're a good people-person and that you're friendly, easygoing and laid back.
Above all, the most important part of listing your strengths is being honest and presenting your skills and abilities in a way that will allow a potential employer to visualize exactly what effect a person with your skills would have in that position. If you can describe yourself honestly in a way that makes clear that you are going to be an effective employee specifically because of your unique strengths, you are doing a great job talking about yourself.
Weaknesses and strengths can be tricky questions, but once you are able to figure out the kind of employee your employer is looking for, you can get that much closer to assessing your own strengths and weaknesses and presenting them in a way that makes you seem like the perfect fit for the role.