How to Handle the Weakness Question in an Interview

Most people dread this question, as we are accustomed to selling ourselves in an interview, and then are suddenly thrown into a position where the hiring manager wants to know something negative about us. Are they trying to catch us out? Is this going to be detrimental?

It is important to respond carefully, avoiding the opportunity for the hiring manager to assume you are not going to be able to do the job. While being sincere, your weakness can be framed something you are improving, and around positive aspects of your skills and abilities as an employee.

Worrying about this question serves to only make matters worse, instead you should prepare for the question and think about how to answer it appropriately. Here are some key do’s and don’ts to remember before the big interview:


Review the job description and pick a weakness appropriate for the job

Discuss non-essential skills, by first analysing the key strengths that will be required in the position. Frame an answer and formulate an honest shortcoming that you feel would not be essential for job success.

By reviewing the job description in full and taking the time to research the company, it will enable you to pick a weakness that is appropriate for the job in hand and not one that will hinder your chances.

Be authentic

In order to make a good impression and not come across as fake, make your answer as sincere as you can. It basically means do not tell a huge lie – yes, you can choose a weakness selectively, but it does need to reign true.

At least one of your weaknesses will be interview friendly, and telling the truth will not only enable you to deliver your message with confidence, but you will also be able to draw on examples if the interviewer asks for further details.

Draw on skills you are improving

Demonstrate ways that you are working on your weakness, by discussing steps you have taken to improve on this area. Describing how you have already improved the weakness shows that you are prepared to find new ways to learn and grow.

Making a conscious effort to fix a weakness shows initiative, and proves you will develop and be motivated to be the best at what you do. If speaking publically gets your knees shaking but you have begun leading group meetings in order to get used to it, this shows a commitment to improvement.


Turn a negative into a positive

Your instinct may to ensure you come across as best as possible, and this can lead to totally turning your ‘weakness’ into a positive thing. In the past, many scholars advised that this was good practice, and along came a high percentage of candidates who claimed to be a ‘perfectionist’.

Recruiters can see through this now, and would much rather hear an actual weakness, and one that can be improved upon. Avoid looking like you have something to hide, and be sincere.

Memorise the perfect answer

Though this might be helpful to some, it might be detrimental if your conversation ends up leading you down a different trail of thought and you still decide to go with your rehearsed speech.

Gather a few ideas for weaknesses and think about how you are/could ‘fix’ them, but be prepared for the conversation to go a number of ways, and be fluid and changeable when necessary.

Reveal a ‘red flag’

Try to avoid confessing to a weakness that could hinder your ability to excel in the role, as by doing so your real weakness is being too honest. Remember to only discuss weaknesses that are not related to your professional ability, and are not ingrained into your personality.

For example, if you struggle to get out of bed in the morning, if you might be needed to make important morning meetings, it might not matter how hard you’re working on it – you probably won’t make the cut.

Refuse to answer

Nobody is perfect, and you need to answer this question in order to avoid coming across as arrogant and underprepared – even if in reality you just don’t know what to say.

Rushing your answer could make you say something you will regret, which is as bad as refusing to answer it! If you need a few moments to think of what you will say, pause, breathe and figure it out.

Generally, when interviewers ask the weakness question, they are trying to get past your nice façade and get a real sense of what you are really like to work with. They are also interested in how you answer the question, and what your response reveals about your personality.

Ultimately, we all have flaws, and as long as we can articulate them successfully, we shouldn’t fear this question. The interview wants to see that you are a real, humble human being who can face obstacles and attempts overcome them.


For a confidential chat with one of our friendly consultants at Integra People, please call 01925 838 600 today.

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