Acceptable Weaknesses in an Interview

by George Lawrence J.D.; Updated September 26, 2017
Go into a job interview prepared to answer questions about your strengths -- and weaknesses.

“What is your greatest weakness?” For many job applicants, the answer is probably, “Discussing my greatest weakness in a way that won’t disqualify me from the job.” Interviewers know applicants squirm at this type of question; it is often a test to see how well the applicant handles himself under pressure. Every job is different, and every job applicant is different, so there is no list of “acceptable weaknesses.” Instead, make the answer personal to your weaknesses, but frame the answer in an acceptable way.

Former Weaknesses

A common approach to this question is to describe a weakness, but immediately downplay it by discussing the steps you’ve taken to overcome a weakness. For example, many people fear public speaking. You could note that your weakness is speaking to a group, then go on to say how hard you have worked to overcome that fear, such as by purposely accepting roles or responsibilities that involved speaking to groups.

Frame the Weakness in a Positive Light

Avoid trite comments, such as “I work too hard.” Most employers will see through that tactic. Instead, try to frame an actual weakness in a positive light. For example, you might describe how much you want a heavy workload and responsibility, but sometimes your work contains small typos. You could then follow up by explaining how you finish a task, move on to the next one, but proof read reports before turning them in.

Room for Improvement

As an article on CNN’s website reports, applicants can always improve. Discuss one aspect about the job that would be slightly challenging to you, but one in which you already have some degree of proficiency and are looking to improve. In this case, the weakness is the potential challenge. Explaining how and why you want to improve in an area of expertise helps you dodge a direct weakness.

Avoid Disqualifying Answers

While you must answer the question by discussing a personal weakness, you should also keep in mind the specifics of the particular position as you respond. This means avoiding an answer that would disqualify you for the job. For example, you should not discuss your need for a full night’s rest when the job requires overnight hours.

About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.

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