How to Answer the Interview Question, “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’

How to Answer the Interview Question, “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’

How to Answer the Interview Question, “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ banner

One of the scariest interview questions to be asked in a job interview is ‘what is your greatest weakness?’ The fear is that if you are totally honest, the interviewer may think less of you because of the trait you share. However, you don’t want to avoid the question or give a trite, clichéd answer. How do you field this inevitable interview question?

Why Employers Ask This Question

Potential employers don’t ask about your greatest weakness to freak you out or get you to talk negatively about yourself. The point of the question is to see how self-aware and honest you are. We all have weaknesses, so there’s no good trying to pretend you’re perfect. What potential employers want to see is that you are aware of your weaknesses and that you are working to improve yourself in those areas.

Since this question is so popular, it’s a good idea to have a practiced answer at the ready before you arrive at the interview. This is a question that can trip up job candidates who haven’t taken the time to prepare a thoughtful answer.

How to Answer What Is Your Greatest Weakness

So, what do you say to that recruiter who asks you about your weakness? It’s a good idea to have a response that you’ve rehearsed how to answer, since this question or a variation of it is one of the most popular questions asked by hiring managers. We have a few suggestions on how to prepare for this common interview question.

Be Honest and Choose a Real Weakness

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it’s best to be honest and choose a shortcoming that you want to improve upon, not something superficial like ‘I’m bad at remembering names.’ Some examples include a tendency toward saying yes to too many requests, getting too caught up in the details of a project, and lacking confidence.

Demonstrate How You’ve Worked to Overcome Your Weakness

It’s essential to pair your weakness with the steps you’ve taken to get better and overcome the flaw. This shows the recruiter both self-awareness and a desire for self-improvement. Whether you’re participating in an in-person or online job interview, you’ll want to outline a few examples of how you’ve risen above your ‘weakness.’ For example, if you say that you struggle with communication because of being timid, you might say that in your last job, you took a communications course to help you feel more comfortable speaking in front of people and you volunteered to chair project meetings whenever possible to gain more experience.

Pick a Weakness in Something Not Essential to the Role

Of course, you don’t want to choose a weakness that’s an essential part of performing the job you’re interviewing for. As an example, if the job involves a lot of interdepartmental projects, you probably don’t want to say you have difficulty working as part of a team. If your job has P&L responsibility, you don’t want to say that numbers ‘aren’t your thing.’ Another bad choice for an answer is to give the clichéd answer that you are a perfectionist.

On the other hand, if you are applying for a job as a nurse, it would be okay to say that you struggle with making group presentations, or if you are seeking a job as an artist, you might say that you have trouble with numbers. Some good examples of how to answer the question about your greatest weakness include:

  • Fear of public speaking (unless you’re applying for a job that requires it)
  • Difficulty balancing life and work
  • Micromanaging
  • Being too hard on yourself
  • Having trouble delegating tasks
  • Lacking patience
  • Being too timid
  • Not having an advanced degree

Turn a Negative into a Positive

Another good strategy for answering the question about your greatest weakness is to turn a negative into a positive. For example, you might say how being too hard on yourself increased your drive to succeed, or how in an effort to overcome your shyness, you volunteered for a leadership position at your church and learned a lot about management as well as how to deal with all kinds of people. However you answer, it’s important to stress that you are aware of this weakness, and you’ll keep it from impeding your job performance if you should get the position.

What you don’t want to do when answering this question is be negative. Avoid using the word ‘weakness’ and instead talk about your effort to overcome the trait that was holding you back. It’s also best if you avoid giving too much information in your answer. Make your answer concise without going on and on about your self-improvement. Lastly, you don’t want to say or imply that you are without any faults. Each of us has traits we would like to improve. Saying you don’t have flaws can make you appear disingenuous and lacking in self-awareness.

Ways to Improve Your Weakness

Of course, some weaknesses are easier to correct than others. If your weakness is that you’ve never completed (or started) an advanced degree program, going back to school is the answer. Johnson & Wales University makes it easy for working students to complete their master’s and doctorate degrees by offering many programs online.

Stating your lack of a master’s degree or certification to the hiring manager in your job interview gets this topic on the table and lets you talk about your plans to go back to school and earn that extra credential.

Earn an Advanced Degree

Johnson & Wales University (JWU) offers a variety of advanced degrees, including an MBA in 18 specialties, a Master of Public Administration in five specialties, and a Master of Science in 16 specialties ranging from criminal justice to organizational psychology. By sharing your education plans with the recruiter, you share your commitment to self-improvement, as well as your dedication to learning as much as you can about the industry and the job you are seeking.

Many Johnson & Wales degree programs can be completed in two years or less. The university even has a concentrated MBA program that can be completed in a single year.

Earn a Certification

Certifications are a way to add specialized education to your resumé without the time and financial commitment necessary for an advanced degree. Most certification programs can be completed in a year or less and are significantly less expensive than an advanced degree program. JWU offers graduate certificate programs in several fields, including:

  • Hospitality
  • Non-profit management
  • Executive communication
  • Industrial design
  • Operations and supply chain management
  • Nutrition

One of the chief advantages of JWU certificate programs is that they may be completed 100% online. That means you can fit your schooling around your job and family responsibilities and not have to spend time and money commuting to class. You can do your coursework when it best suits you, as long as you complete it by the deadline. JWU certificate programs are eligible for financial aid for qualified students.


Johnson & Wales University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in more than 50 fields of study. Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales has a current enrollment of around 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The university is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Financial aid is available for qualified students.

For more information about completing your degree online or on-campus, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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