Learn how to answer the question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” in a job interview.
It is very common for hiring managers to ask about your strengths and weaknesses during a job interview. Like any question, your response holds weight. An interview’s purpose is to evaluate your ability to get the job done. You will want to answer in an honest, thoughtful, and strategic manner that demonstrates an awareness of your positive qualities as well as areas that need improvement.
Everybody has both strengths and weaknesses. The aim of this question is not to pretend that you are perfect but to provide a contextual example of how you use your strengths to shine and how you work to improve any weaknesses that are relevant to the role.
This article explains why interviewers ask this question, lists examples of strengths and weaknesses, and offers suggestions to help you answer wisely.
This common question is a helpful tool for interviewers to understand your personality and working style. When hiring managers ask about your strengths and weaknesses, they evaluate a few things:
Whether you can conduct an honest self-assessment
Whether you are aware of your positive traits and how you use them in the workplace
Whether you can address your weaknesses and how you’ve worked to improve them
How your skills and traits will balance out those of current team members
The best response is strategically honest. It may be helpful to first reflect on this question from the hiring manager’s perspective. What qualities or competencies are they looking for in this specific role? Then, consider how you can leverage your “strengths” to align with a key competency of theirs—and have a “weakness” prepared that won’t eliminate you as a red flag candidate.
For your strengths, you should be confident, but don’t brag too much. Mention one or two top strengths, and provide thorough contextual examples of how you’ve used them in the workplace. Be specific. Just saying “I’m good at X” is a poor response because it indicates you haven’t given the question much thought. Why are you good at X? How does X help you at work?
As for weaknesses, candidates should not deny having any, make a joke of it, sidestep the question, or psychoanalyze themselves, according to Charles Duquette, a lecturer at the University of Maryland . Further, you should never imply that you don’t get along well with others, that you have anger management issues or other problematic behaviors, or have any weaknesses that deter from your success in the role.
Read more: Interviewing Skills To Benefit Your Career
Weaknesses like public speaking and time management are common and resolvable. For technical roles, you can refer to new software or non-essential skill that you have yet to learn. The best responses explain that you have actively worked on this weakness so that it will not be an issue on the job.
When you approach this question, think about the positive qualities you embody and the skills you possess that serve you well in the workplace. Here is a list of strengths to consider:
Expertise in a particular skill or software
There are several ways a hiring manager might phrase this type of question. Some variations of “what are your strengths?” include:
What is your greatest strength?
What are your strengths in the workplace?
What is a key attribute that helps you excel in the workplace?
What are three words your current manager would use to describe you?
When answering any variation of this question, providing context in your response demonstrates an awareness of your strengths and how they benefited you in the workplace. Here is a sample structure for a response:
I am __________. In my current/previous job/experience, I did __________ and had to be __________ enough to do __________, so that has taught me a lot about __________.
These examples can give you an idea of the type of structured response. They demonstrate that you are confident of this strength and that you will use it to succeed in this specific role.
I am very collaborative. I’ve always enjoyed working on teams and it is one of my strongest attributes. In my previous job as a marketing research analyst, I led a project that involved diverse stakeholders. This project conducted focus groups and extensive field research, which taught me about my ability to inspire others in stressful situations. The client used our insights to create a sustainable (both environmentally and financially) product.
I love staying up-to-date with trends in the tech industry. From my current role, I know the ins and outs of SAP very well, so I can anticipate problems before they arise. I get excited tinkering around with gadgets in my personal life, and this trait has come in handy in the workplace when I get to know software or program intimately.
As a content creator, I love brainstorming new approaches to reach our consumers. But I am most known for being disciplined—I never miss a deadline. I care a lot about word choice because I believe that precise language can transform a piece from good to great. My blogs and articles consistently perform well and reach the top of Google searches.
My positive attitude is definitely one of my strengths. I have been a restaurant server, a tutor, and a health aide in the past decade, all jobs that require plenty of energy and endurance. I can view a situation from multiple perspectives and empathize with my customers, students, and patients to understand their needs at any given time.
I am a solutions-oriented person and a quick learner. In my role as an electrical engineer, I learned to perform well under pressure when designing equipment because our team would not be able to win a contract unless we produced the blueprints quickly, with as few resources as possible. In these circumstances, I am not afraid to ask questions to figure out the challenge. I do extensive research for every client, so I can be extra prepared.
In response to “what are your weaknesses?” you might consider traits or abilities that you wish you had a little more of, those that sometimes hinder you from producing your best work or being your best self in the workplace.
Here are some weaknesses that you might select from for your response:
Inability to delegate tasks
Extreme introversion or extroversion
Limited experience in a particular skill or software
Your interviewer may approach this question in different ways, so you’ll want to be prepared for the possibilities. Variations might include:
What would your current manager/colleagues say is your biggest weakness?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
How do you bounce back from mistakes?
What areas in your career do you feel you could improve?
Just like the strengths, you’ll want to provide more than just “I’m bad at X.” Explaining that you are aware of a particular weakness and have taken steps to improve is a sign of maturity and drive that is attractive to employers. Here is a sample structure for a response:
I used to have trouble with __________. I received feedback from my manager/colleagues that __________ was affecting my performance in __________. I worked to address this by __________ and I realized I was improving because __________.
Talking about your weaknesses to a potential employer can be intimidating, especially if you really want to make a good impression. You don’t want to say the wrong thing. As long as you are honest, don’t signal any red flags, and maintain a positive mindset, your vulnerability can actually humanize your character. The following examples can help you formulate your response.
I can be quite critical of myself. I fall into a pattern of thinking, “I could have done better,” even when I do well and the project is successful. This leads to negative self-talk and eventual burnout that could be avoided if I celebrated the little achievements. Currently, I am learning to express gratitude for others’ efforts and how each person (including me) benefits our team.
I am a naturally shy person. Since I was a kid, I have always felt nervous presenting in front of the class and that translated into the workplace. A few years ago, I led a big project and was asked to present it to board members—I almost peed my pants. I realized I had to overcome this fear, so I took Toastmasters classes that really helped. Now, I take it a step further by empathizing with quieter team members and coaching them to build their confidence.
Procrastination has long been a bad habit of mine. I think it stems from a fear of failure, to be honest. In my last job as a real estate agent, this created quite a bit of stress for me when I constantly showed up late to client meetings and neglected to fill out tedious paperwork. I started using Google calendar and apps like Trello to manage my time better. Crossing things off my to-do list makes me feel accomplished, so I’m less likely to procrastinate.
One of my weaknesses is perfectionism. I can be competitive with others, but I am especially competitive with myself. I want the project to be the best it can be, so I stress over the tiniest details and take ages to even send an email. Sometimes this is positive, as my manager does love my meticulous blueprints, but it is a burden on my productivity. I finally had to learn that in some cases “done is better than perfect.”
I am intimidated by Excel shortcuts, even though I use them every day as a data analyst. This happens whenever I have to learn new software. I think that one wrong formula will alter the entire spreadsheet and I can’t fix it. In my last job, we didn’t use any fancy programs but relied on Excel to sort data. I started approaching it as if it was a language to master, spending an hour each day fiddling with pretend formulas. Now, I can do VLOOKUPs in my sleep.
If job interviews aren’t your strong suit, become an expert with Big Interview’s course The Art of the Job Interview. You’ll learn what questions to expect and how to answer them, gaining access to tools to help you practice answers until you feel confident.
Check out our custom Job Search Guide: Resources for Your Next Career Move, a curated list of resources and advice to help you land your next job.
1. Coursera. "Strategies for Answering the Weaknesses Question, https://www.coursera.org/lecture/interview-techniques/strategies-for-answering-the-weaknesses-question-jH402." Accessed March 29, 2022.
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