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Interview questions: 'what's your biggest weakness?'

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If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What would you like to improve? What’s your biggest weakness? What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Answering questions like these are never easy, particularly in a high-pressure situation like a job interview. What’s your biggest weakness is a standard job interview question, and although you might find it uncomfortable it’s important to prepare for it and answer it honestly.

Why do employers ask this question?

Your potential employer isn’t trying to catch you out. They are asking you these kinds of job interview questions to evaluate 3 important things:

  1. If you’re honest
  2. If you have a good level of self-awareness
  3. If you’re willing to learn new things and improve yourself

In a world where how we work is constantly evolving it’s vital you can show you’re all of these things and are adaptable. Keep this in mind when answering “what’s your biggest weakness?” and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your resilience and level of good character.

What shouldn’t you say?

Whatever you do, don’t say you’re “too much of a perfectionist”. It’s cliché and comes across as insincere, even if you are a perfectionist.

Just as importantly don’t say you don’t have any. No one is 100% perfect and showing an awareness of your flaws is a good thing. Instead, go for something relatable and fixable. ­­

What should you say? (and why)

Pick a weakness that is relatable and fixable.

If it’s relatable the employer should empathise with you, and if it’s fixable it communicates it’s not a major setback. You should also try and choose a weakness that won’t impact your potential new job hugely.

For example, if you’re interviewing for an analytical role, choose a weakness that isn’t directly analytical. Likewise, if you’re going for a digital role – pick a weakness of yours that isn’t related to the digital skills on the job spec.

Showing that you are aware of your weaknesses and are actively working on them will speak volumes – rather than giving a staid generic response you’ve learned off.

Choosing your weakness

The weakness should be minor enough – for example, I can find it hard to say no but I’ve realised this is often counterproductive and I now weigh up what’s important, over what’s urgent, before committing to a request.

Or, I find public speaking nerve-wracking but in my last role, I started doing small internal public speaking sessions to build up my confidence.

When answering this interview question don’t feel under pressure to go into too much detail.  Answer concisely, explain how you’re working to improve and leave it at that unless the interviewer probes you further.

Like with any interview question stay calm and confident when answering, it’s rarely as bad as you think.

Looking for more job interview advice? Download our free Interview Handbook for a comprehensive guide to everything from how to prepare for a job interview to what to wear and how to wrap things up properly.