A job interview is all about presenting your best self—which is why answering “What is your greatest weakness?” is pretty difficult. There’s no other interview question that feels like more of a trap.
If you’re too honest, you might scare the hiring manager and blow your chances of getting the position. But if you’re not honest enough, you’ll lose credibility.
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is why the question’s being asked—and it’s not to trip you up. Instead it’s to see if you’re self-aware enough to recognize a flaw, and then self-motivated enough to fix it. Today’s feedback on your weaknesses is tomorrow’s feedback on an important team project that’s not coming together.
Answering this question can be a great opportunity to highlight how you've overcome a challenge in the past—or are actively working to do so now. After all, everyone has areas that could use improvement, but if you can describe how you've mitigated yours, you’ll seem strong, capable, and in charge of your professional development.
OK, that's great, you're thinking, but what do I actually say? To help you out, I’ve rounded up the most common, cliché, and fake-sounding “biggest weaknesses,” along with some suggestions for what to say instead.
1. Instead of “Perfectionism,” Say…
“I tend to get caught up in the little details, which can distract me from the ultimate goal.”
You might be a perfectionist, but your interviewer has heard this answer a billion times (and from plenty of people who aren’t actually perfectionists, I might add).
However, by presenting the symptoms, rather than just naming the affliction, you’ll sound much more sincere.
Follow this answer with an example, such as:
When I was a junior web designer at Harold’s Hats, I was asked to revamp our size guide and make it more fun and visually interesting. Unfortunately, I became so fixated on finding the perfect font that I missed the deadline.
Next, describe how you’re working to solve the issue. (Hint: This answer will work for almost every perfectionist.)
These days, I break each project down into mini-tasks, each with their own deadline. If I spend too long on an individual thing, I set it aside and move on to the next one. Usually, by the time I come