Job Interview 101: “What Are Your Weaknesses?”

Two people shaking hands after answering "What are your weaknesses?".

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What are your weaknesses?

This question may come as a surprise to some first-time job interviewees. Realistically, you may wonder why you would have to share your weaknesses with someone who you want to impress. Interviewers usually ask about strengths first, of course, and it may be a lot easier to answer that question with your charming attributes and skills that can get you the job. They ask about your  weaknesses because employers want to know if you are self-aware of the qualities you want to improve on. No one is perfect, and there are so many capabilities that you can still sharpen. May these be hard skills (technical and job-related) or soft skills (personal qualities and traits), there is always room for refinement.

As you encounter this question in your job interview, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind in order to answer this question sincerely and successfully.

Stay positive

You might be thinking about how you can “stay positive” while talking about the characteristics of yours that need improvement. Usually, employers will ask about your strengths first, so answering that on a positive and confident note should be able to segue you properly into the weaknesses question. 

Remember that when you talk about your weaknesses, these are equivalent to points of improvement, not failures and regrets. You are telling your employer that you want to grow and develop with the company and that you acknowledge these traits as points where you want to get better. Set yourself up as someone who gets up easily from defeat and doesn’t dwell on mistakes. 

This is the perfect time to have that silver lining mentality. Expressing to your employer that you are willing to do what you can to get better at a specific skill is a good depiction of your attitude towards work. It’s always good to have an optimistic employee in the workplace, as you may be able to boost morale and promote good work ethic.

Shine light on skills your job won’t crucially need

Even though it’s important to point out skills that you know need improvement, don’t go as far as to single out characteristics that could be possibly detrimental for you getting hired for the job. Saying that you’re terrible or horrific at a specific skill that is crucial for the job might give the employer the impression that you applied out of desperation, and not because you will have anything to bring to the table. Instead, focus more on skills that your job won’t essentially need, but might be good to have on the side. 

For example, if you are not a confident writer trying to get a writing job, you might want to say that you are trying to improve your ideation skills for writing, instead of saying directly that you are bad at writing. This shows employers that you still know that you have to improve without being self-condescending about it. Make sure to word these statements well, because using adjectives that are too negative or weaknesses that contradict the job you are applying for might not look good for the employer.

Tell them what you’re going to do about it

For employers to know that you are serious about what you want to do, you have to emphasize your plan of action. It’s important to let them know how you intend to make yourself better for your own sake and the company’s. This could be by explaining concrete ways that you are trying in order to change habits or that you’ll be able to work on such changes if you are hired. Overall, you and everyone else are on a road towards growth. Getting a new job is a step towards development, and having that mindset plus knowing what you can bring to the table is key in getting yourself employed.

Keep in mind that when an employer asks what your weaknesses are, it doesn’t mean they’re trying to put you down. They just want to know if you’re aware of yourself, the things you want to improve on, and what you can bring to the table for the job. Remaining honest, sincere, and level-headed when you answer your employer lets them know that you still want to grow and develop at work if they hire you.

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