How To Respond To "What's Your Greatest Weakness?" In A Job Interview, According To Career Experts

Share
Ad failed to load

When I've interviewed for jobs, I've always dreaded one particular question: "What's your greatest weakness?" It's a trick question: If you make yourself look bad, you could sabotage your shots at the job. But if you make yourself look good, you're not even answering the question. Yet people answer this question and somehow manage to get hired, so there must be some good answer.

When interviewers ask this question, they're not just paying attention to the content of your response — they also want to see how well you're keeping your cool, says career counselor and executive coach Roy Cohen. "Bear in mind that the interviewer is not your therapist," he tells Bustle. "These sorts of questions are asked typically to determine that you act appropriately in stressful situations, that you exercise good judgement and know how much and how little to share, and that there are no obvious reasons to disqualify you."

Hiring managers are also looking to see how you've dealt with your weaknesses, Natalia Burina, who has interviewed hundreds of candidates at Silicon Valley tech companies, tells Bustle. "The interviewers want to see that you're self aware and have a growth mentality."

Ad failed to load

Here are some ways to answer the question "what's your greatest weakness?" while both being honest and painting yourself in a positive light.

Ad failed to load

1Talk About What You Want To Get Better At

ivanko80/Fotolia

Instead of thinking in the negative (even if the question is framed that way), think about the abilities and qualities you'd like to develop, career coach Mary Warriner tells Bustle. That could be a technical skill — maybe your coding abilities aren't as developed as you'd like — or maybe it's an interpersonal skill, like delegating tasks or public speaking.

2Talk About How You're Improving

Don't just talk about what you're not great at — talk about what you're doing to get better at it. "That shows that you are self aware and taking initiative," says Warriner.

3Name A Weakness That Can Also Be A Strength

Photographee.eu/Fotolia

"I work too hard" or "I'm a perfectionist" may be too obvious, but there are some weaknesses with upsides you can name while still being genuine, Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for giffgaff, tells Bustle. One might be "I'm very critical" — and then give an example of how your attention to detail has paid off. "As long as you can prove that this weakness won’t cloud your judgement, or stop you from meeting important deadlines, you’re covered," says Pritchard.

Ad failed to load

4Tell A Story

Don't just name a quality — talk about an experience that made you aware of the weakness and how you picked up the pieces and moved on. "When you interview, briefly set context, explain what happened, and close with what you learned and how you worked to improve," says Burina. "The goal is to be clear, interesting, and demonstrate what you learned."

5Show How You've Taken Them Into Consideration

Photographee.eu/Fotolia

It helps to show awareness that even if you've been working on your weaknesses, they're probably not gone, says executive coach Eamon Rooney. Rooney recommends saying something like, "I’ve made a choice in my life to focus on maximizing my strengths while working with others who complement my weaknesses" — and then talking about how you've done that.

6Pick Something Small

If you don't feel like you can spin a weakness as a strength or don't have much to say about how you're improving, at least pick something that's not a major deal-breaker. Valerie Streif, Senior Advisor with thementat.com, tells Bustle she recommends something like "asking too many questions" or "striving too hard to please everyone and not focusing on making the right decision for the company."

Ad failed to load

7Name Something That Would Only Be A Weakness In A Different Job

Photographee.eu/Fotolia

One trick Cohen teaches people is to name a weakness that might hurt your performance in a different job but shouldn't be a problem in the one you're interviewing for. If the position is a salesperson in a store, for example, you might say, "I get bored easily and need to be moving around. Talking to people, listening to them, arranging stuff, and just busy. If I had to sit behind a desk all day, that would be the worst possible role for me."

So the good news is, you don't have to lie on this question. You just have to highlight your strengths as well, show you're working to improve, or share genuine weaknesses that aren't total deal-breakers.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

Bustle's Editors On Jennifer Aniston + Adam Rippon

We've made it to Friday! It's been a pretty hectic week, and the news that Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux are splitting up might have put a damper on your weekend. But, if like many people you have Monday off, hopefully you can sit back and enjo…
By Rachel Simon

This Timeline Of Justin Theroux & Jennifer Aniston's Relationship Will Break Your Heart All Over Again

Just one day after Valentine's Day, actors Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux announced their breakup after seven years together. The celebrity couple, who were married for two-and-half years, separated quietly at the end of last year. This week, th…
By Priscilla Totiyapungprasert

19 Things Your Parents Told You Were Illegal In The '90s

Kids say — and think — the darnedest things. We have overactive imaginations, adults like to mess with us, and we don't always understand everything we hear. That's why some kids call strawberries "straw babies" — a boo-boo so adorable, you don't eve…
By Megan Grant

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

I Never Want To Write This Essay Again

I don't know where you were when you heard about Wednesday's high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I don't know what you were doing, or how you tried to process the news. I do know this: you thought to yourself, not again. And yet, again. Of cou…
By Jenny Hollander

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

A Study Suggests Drinking Soda Can Affect Your Fertility — But Don’t Freak Out Just Yet

An awful lot of things can affect fecundability — that is, the probability of conceiving within a single menstrual cycle — but can soda really decrease your chances of getting pregnant? A new study suggests that it might, although it turns out that t…
By Lucia Peters

Here Are All The Terms You Need To Know If You’re Watching Olympic Ski Events Right Now

Every four years the Winter Olympics rolls around to remind me that A) there are so many important Winter Olympic sports, and B) I know virtually nothing any of them. And I know for a fact, I'm not alone, I bet most people don't know what the differe…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

Money Actually CAN Buy Happiness — And Science Figured Out Exactly How Much It Costs

You’ve probably heard the saying “Money can’t buy happiness.” Personally, I’d be more than willing to test out that hypothesis myself, but researchers at Purdue University beat me to it. Researchers found that there is an actual amount of money it ta…
By Katie Mitchell

Kate Middleton Made Sales Of This $1 Secret Accessory Spike & She'll Turn You Into A Believer

There's a royal epidemic going on, people. It's one that causes any and everyone to obsess over the royal family's wardrobe and beauty routines, even if it means breaking the bank to look like them. So a frenzy was expected when Kate Middleton report…
By Summer Arlexis

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
via Romper

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale

These 10 Drugstore Red Lipsticks Are Under $10 & Actually *Amazing*

I adore makeup. There are few things I like more than getting myself fancied up in the mornings. It's a little ritual I get to do every day that makes me feel prettier and more put together. When my makeup is on, I'm ready to face the world — pun int…
via Romper

17 Moms Reveal The Most Disgusting Part Of Their Pregnancy

Pregnant bodies do weird-ass things. Weird-ass, gross things. I mean, my pregnant body did (twice), and I have long-suspected I'm not alone. So I asked other moms to share the most disgusting part of their pregnancy and I learned that, not only am I …
via Romper