There are some interview questions that have become a go-to for hiring managers and recruiters alike. ‘What’s your biggest weakness’ is one of them, and has cemented its place as one of most dreaded of all interview questions.
How to answer “What is your biggest weakness?”
If you’re feeling unsure about how to answer the 'what is your biggest weakness' interview question, then you’re in luck. In this article, I’m going to unpack this interview question and explain the best way of answering it so that you impress the interviewer and leave a strong impression.
Let’s be honest, this interview question can often feel like a trick question.
An interview is supposed to be your opportunity to convince the company to hire you, to talk about how great you are and all that you have to offer.
It’s not a therapy session and certainly not the context that you want to be discussing your biggest weakness.
Your interviewers are not people you trust and want to be vulnerable with.
After all, the whole exercise of an interview is set up so that they can judge you.
So, why would you want to say anything negative about yourself at all?! Why give them an opportunity to find reasons to reject you by telling them your biggest weakness?
Avoid common responses to this question
The most common response I see to the 'what is your biggest weakness' question is for the interviewee to respond with a ‘trick’ answer. They say something that could be considered a weakness but that they know is really something the interviewer would consider a strength.
You know the kind of thing; “I’m too much of a perfectionist”, “I work too hard, I need to learn to switch off”.
This tactic of sharing something that isn’t really a weakness can work in the sense that you avoid sharing something that could disqualify you. But does it impress the interviewer? No.
They’ve heard these responses so many times before. It can all feel like a going-through-the-motions of interviewing and quite frankly is a missed opportunity to make an impact.
In fact, I once coached an interviewee who was pressed by the interviewer to share more and more weaknesses until the interviewer felt that he was speaking genuinely and truthfully.
Thankfully, not all interviewers will push this hard but that doesn’t mean that they don’t see through your evasive answer.
Why do interviewers ask “What is your biggest weakness?”
Some interviewers ask 'what is your biggest weakness' simply out of habit, but the more intentional interviewers have some genuine reasons to include this interview question.
1. The interviewer wants to understand your level of self-awareness
Talking about our strengths is one thing, but being able to speak articulately about our biggest weakness requires a greater level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
Demonstrating humility and a real understanding of your weaknesses, or potential blind spots, demonstrates that you are well-rounded and can offer the interviewer valuable insight about your personality.
2. The interviewer wants to see your willingness to learn and improve yourself
Whilst we all want to give the best impression of ourselves in an interview, no-one actually wants to hire the person who thinks they’re perfect. If you come across as overly arrogant, or as though you think you have zero weaknesses, this can be a big red flag to potential employers.
Instead, this question should be used as an opportunity to show you are engaged and open to continuous learning and self-improvement.
3. The interviewer actually wants to know what your weaknesses are
Not all interview questions are filled with hidden meanings and intentions. Some interviewers ask this question because they are genuinely curious.
Perhaps they are trying to figure out how you would fit in the team and whether there are people or resources to support you in the areas you are weakest.
Perhaps they know some of the challenges facing the role and don’t want to set someone up to fail. They want to understand who you are to ensure you can thrive in the role. Whatever their reasons, avoiding this interview question can leave the interviewer frustrated that you haven’t answered the question.