How to answer ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ in a job interview – and the responses to never give if you want to be taken seriously
- A top employer revealed the worst answers to a common interview question
- Jane McNeill, Director of Hays, often asks interviewees their ‘greatest weakness’
- She said it shows how self aware and honest prospective employees are
- The worst answers include denying having a weakness and being a ‘workaholic’
A top employer has revealed the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ answers to one of the most dreaded interview questions.
Jane McNeill, director of recruitment company Hays, shared insight into one of the most common interview questions after more than three decades in the industry: ‘What’s your greatest weakness?’
‘Interviewers ask this question to find out how self-aware you are,’ said McNeill to Seek. ‘Knowing your areas of personal strength and weakness allows you to build on them and identify areas you can improve.’
A top employer has revealed the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ answers to one of the most dreaded interview questions
And while many prospective employees fear that it is a ‘trick’ question with the sole aim to bewilder them – answering it well can considerably boost your chances of securing a new job.
The secret is simple: there is no perfect answer.
Choosing a trait you are taking steps to improve (and that is not essential to the role) is a safe answer.
For example, people hoping to work in marketing should no say that their creative side is lacking.
The way you present yourself in relation to the job posting is important – you cannot reveal that your ‘greatest weakness’ is something listed on the key selection criteria.
So the go-to when thinking of weaknesses is to find a ‘nice to have’ skill that an employer can usually go without – or have someone else perform.
Best and worst answers to ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’
- I’m too competitive
- I’m scared of public speaking
- I’m quite self-critical
- I don’t delegate enough
- I take on too much at once
- I’m a perfectionist
- I work too hard
- I do not have any weaknesses
- I’m too passionate
- I care too much
McNeil provided a list of strong examples that apply to most people.
- ‘I’m scared of public speaking.’
- ‘I’m quite self-critical.’
- ‘I don’t delegate enough.’
‘All three show self-awareness,’ said McNeill. ‘These answers are even better if you can explain what you’ve done to overcome your weaknesses.’
‘It’s critical to show that you have emotional intelligence and that you are working on your weakness,’ revealed McNeill.
She also revealed that the worst answers dress up strengths as weaknesses.
‘At best this looks disingenuous or deliberately insincere – at worst your interviewer will think you’re lying.’
The way you present yourself in relation to the job posting is important – you cannot reveal that your ‘greatest weakness’ is something listed on the key selection criteria
Common interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why should I hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you prioritise tasks?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What will you bring to this job?
- Why are you leaving your previous job?
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
Interviewees should avoid saying they are a ‘workaholic’ or a ‘perfectionist’ as most modern employers are looking for people who have a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.
In addition, claiming to be a perfectionist can insinuate that you spend too long on tasks – which is a negative in a world that values efficiency.
Everyone has weaknesses and qualities they can improve on, and the most important aspect is to be honest about your areas of growth and think about the best answer for the interview question beforehand.
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