What do you think is your greatest weakness

Weaknesses in the interview: tips & examples

“What is your greatest weakness?” In this way or something like that, the question about your own inadequacies comes up in almost every job interview. Applicants can score points with a reflective and honest answer.

It is an unpopular question for applicants: the one about their own Weaknesses in the interview. Regardless, this question is part of the standard repertoire in such conversations. Applicants should therefore be prepared for this and consider beforehand which weakness they would like to mention at this point.

With the following tips, applicants are prepared for the supposedly unpleasant situation.

Interview: Real weaknesses, but don't mention any major flaws

While the applicant has to deal with his strengths when writing the application, because these are described in the cover letter, the weaknesses are usually only asked in the interview - but with a high degree of probability. Applicants should therefore have an answer to this unpopular question in advance.

In the first step, they should consider which character traits are occasionally more detrimental to them or which positive traits are insufficiently developed in them. The point is to find a weakness that is an actual weakness, but that is not too big a blemish for the desired spot.

If you find it difficult to identify your own weaknesses, you can ask friends or relatives for an (honest) assessment. A look from the outside often helps to recognize in which areas there is still room for improvement. The question of which situations the applicant does not like or which tasks he would like to avoid can also give indications of weaknesses. Possible criticism from a supervisor or colleague also helps to identify your own weaknesses.

Weaknesses in the job interview: An honest answer is important

On the other hand, supposed strengths should not be turned into weaknesses. In the past, this was recommended in application guides as a supposedly clever answer. However, HR professionals have long since heard this procedure well enough - and seen through it. Rather, it is more about getting an honest answer from the applicant, which shows that he knows his own behavior and character.

According to studies, it is much better received by HR managers and potential employers if the prospect mentions real weaknesses in the interview. For them, it is primarily about putting the applicant's self-reflection to the test - and not about annoying the applicant or even embarrassing him.

This means that no properties should be named that could also be interpreted positively. In this direction go something like:

  • "I'm too perfectionist"
  • "I work too hard"
  • "I am impatient"
  • "I am very ambitious"
  • "My wife says I'm a workaholic"

Such answers should be avoided as a matter of urgency.

Apparently funny answers should also be avoided. This includes answers that refer to aspects that are of no interest to the HR manager or boss because they have nothing to do with the job. Applicants should therefore neither say at this point that they like to eat chocolate too much nor would they rather sleep in than get up to jog.

The applicant himself may find himself funny, but such an answer is usually not well received by the HR manager or the boss. Such an answer shows that the applicant does not take the question seriously and can have a lasting negative effect on the course of the interview.

With such tricks, applicants hope not to have to deal with actual weaknesses in the first place. However, the interviewees will certainly see through this too - and will discover that the applicant is unwilling to deal openly and honestly with his or her characteristics. Therefore, actual weaknesses should be mentioned as a matter of urgency.

It goes without saying that the question of your own weaknesses should be answered in any case. Anyone who falters here or shrugs their shoulders without giving an answer will certainly not get any positive points from their interlocutors. In addition, such behavior reveals that the candidate has prepared poorly for the interview - after all, such a question is standard in job interviews.

An answer like: "Actually, I don't have any major weaknesses" should also be avoided at all costs. On the one hand, this is highly untrustworthy because everyone has not only positive, but also negative characteristics. On the other hand, such an answer comes across as arrogant and not very reflective.

Demonstrate how to deal with weakness constructively

If a weakness is found, it is about the correct formulation in the actual interview. It is important here to point out in the same breath that you have not only recognized the problem, but are already working on eliminating it.

This could mean that the applicant is admitting they don't like speaking in front of a larger audience. And the solution to this problem could be to volunteer to do presentations to get more practice and thereby increase his self-esteem. A rhetoric course would also be proof that the applicant is working specifically on such a flaw.

By the way, applicants should not voluntarily name more than one weakness. Only if the HR manager or the employer specifically drill for further weaknesses should these be presented. It is therefore worthwhile to have more than one weakness in the back of your mind, but otherwise concentrate on one flaw in the interview.

When it comes to naming the weakness in the interview, the applicant should be careful to speak freely. It is not very convincing if the statements of the interested party sound memorized or are prayed down without vigor.

Examples of weaknesses in the job interview

When it comes down to it in the interview and the applicant is asked in one way or another to reflect on their own flaws, an open and honest answer is what counts. In this answer, the applicant should also show that he is aware of the problem and that he is dealing with it constructively - i.e. already working on a solution. Limiting words such as “now and then,” “sometimes,” or “occasionally” can help make the problem less of an impact.

This could sound like this in a conversation, for example:

  • “I don't really like speaking in front of a larger audience. However, a few weeks ago I started attending a rhetoric course - now it is easier for me to speak freely in front of many people. "
  • “I find it difficult to say no to others. That is why I have sometimes taken on too many projects and tasks in the past. I'm now trying to weigh up whether I can actually cope with the additional task before I promise to help others. "
  • “Sometimes I'm a little too direct. However, I've gotten into the habit of wrapping criticism more nicely because most people then react better and don't feel attacked. "
  • “Sometimes I am not very organized and do too many things at the same time. However, I have started to create systematic lists - since then it has been much easier for me to keep track. "
  • “It can take a while for me to formulate an email to my satisfaction. Afterwards, I am sure that I have found the right words - and I get a predominantly positive response to my digital correspondence. "
  • “You have certainly noticed the gap in my résumé. During this time I reoriented myself and took a critical look at my previous career. But since then I have been all the more certain that I have really taken the right direction. "
  • “I don't like to talk on the phone that much. However, it helps me to prepare a script for the course of the conversation beforehand. Then I feel better prepared and know exactly what I want to say - that gives me security when making phone calls. "

However, mentioning weaknesses that would have a very negative effect on the desired job should be avoided. If the applicant is too honest here and mentions a major shortcoming, he may be catapulted directly out of the race. Negative characteristics that should not be mentioned in this form are, for example: "I have a big problem meeting deadlines" or "Punctuality is a problem for me".

Alternative formulations: This is how HR managers ask applicants about their weaknesses

Sometimes the question that an applicant is confronted with in an interview is very straightforward: "What are your greatest weaknesses?" However, this is not necessarily the case. There are a number of other possible wordings, but all aim at the same thing. These increasingly replace the direct question about the applicant's weaknesses.

With indirect questions, many HR managers take a more subtle approach and hope to gain unaffected insights into the candidate's weaknesses. The interlocutors want to draw conclusions about the personality of the applicant. It is also not uncommon to first ask the applicant a question about his positive qualities and then suddenly turn around and ask a question that aims at his weak points.

The interlocutor may ask about the candidate's weaknesses in such a way:

  • What quality do you dislike in colleagues and / or superiors?
  • How strong would you say your sense of responsibility is?
  • Are you more of a leader or someone who prefers to work in the background?
  • On a scale from one to ten, how would you rate your ability to speak in front of a large crowd?
  • What features do you still need to work on?
  • What's your biggest mistake?
  • Which trait would you like to change in yourself?
  • What annoys you in everyday work?
  • How would you rate your ability to deal with conflict on a scale from one to ten?
  • How would your friends describe you?

Particular care should be taken when asked to place certain properties on a scale. Anyone who gives an answer between one and four is signaling a very pronounced weakness to the HR manager. Even if the answer is between five and seven, that is not very convincing for many HR professionals - they see a lot of catching up to do here. It is therefore worthwhile to pause briefly at such a question and weigh up a suitable answer. Too often applicants tend to answer intuitively - and too quickly - here.

It is also important to justify the answer so that your own assessment can be understood by the HR manager and the boss.