“What is your greatest weakness?” – Stock Answers to this Tricky Interview Question

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t hate this interview question. But here are some stock answers that you can use, tailor and modify for your own interview.

Interviewers ask this question because your answer can say a lot about your character, so it is a popular gambit. I know, it is a real challenge to provide a ‘positive’ answer to what is a negative question. However, it is not impossible to answer this and leave yourself in a good light. I’ve provided five stock answers below that give you examples on how to construct your own answer.

When disclosing your weaknesses, stay away from personal qualities and concentrate more on professional traits. You should disclose only what is relevant in the workplace, and what is fixable. And there is the nub of it – disclose only weaknesses that are, or can be, resolved under your own steam.

So you’ll notice that each stock answer follows the same pattern; first there is a disclosure of a weakness, and then follows an argument to the weakness – the resolution.

You might also notice something else – that disclosures are phrased as in the recent past, and that the arguments are phrased in the present. I.e.: I used to to this, but now I do this.

For the sake of clarity, I have broken each answer into these constituent parts: disclosure + argument. When answering this question in an interview, you will aim to incorporate both pieces into a single answer (i.e. don’t wait to be prompted to give your argument – just launch straight into it after your disclosure!) See what I mean…

  1. Disclosure: “My greatest weakness is that I can be sometimes too trusting about the word of others, which has meant that I have been let down in the past at critical points.” Argument: “Having been burnt by this, I now ensure that I have the full commitment of my colleagues and hold regular checkpoints to verify that my expectations are on-track.”
  2. Disclosure: “I really like to make sure that everyone works happily together and the atmosphere is friendly, but when there are disputes it has caused me a lot of stress and I have needed to resolve the situation.” Argument: “Nowadays I don’t get so stressed as I’ve learned that these things almost always blow over and only feel the need to get involved if they persist.”
  3. Disclosure: “My greatest weakness is that I am often too critical of my own work. I strive to produce excellent results, but in the past I discovered that this was at the cost of delivering to time.” Argument: “Once I became aware of this I modified my approach to work by trusting my knowledge and experience, and applying quality checks at critical points. I now find that I can consistently produce the same quality of work and within the timescales I have been set.”
  4. Disclosure: “My greatest weakness is, up until now, my lack of experience in this industry.” Argument: “This is an industry I am very keen to work and build a career in and I believe my skills are very transferable.”
  5. Disclosure: “My greatest weakness is that I haven’t had much experience in using computers and software, especially office tools.” Argument: “However, I’ve recently joined an evening class where I am learning how to use a computer in the work environment and I am keen to achieve certification to prove that I have the necessary computing skills to do this job.”

Do you have a stock answer that has worked in an interview?

Share your success! Leave a comment below with your best answer.

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