How to Describe Your Weaknesses in a Job Interview (+ Examples)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to answer this challenging interview question so that you emphasize your ability to grow and reflect to potential employers.

[Featured image] One woman speaks while the other listens, with a laptop in the foreground.

“What are your weaknesses?” is a common interview question. It is also very intimidating for job seekers because it means having to confess shortcomings to a hiring manager. How might your weaknesses affect your chances of getting the job? 

Employers want to gain a holistic understanding of you as a potential employee. Asking about your weaknesses is less about getting a wrong or right answer. They simply want to know if you're self-aware and how you're pursuing self-improvement.

This can actually be your opportunity to shine during an interview. With the right mindset and strategy, you can answer the weaknesses question honestly while presenting yourself as an asset to employers. 

How to describe your weaknesses in a job interview 

To prepare your answer to this challenging question, use this strategy: 

  1. Identify a "weakness," or a growth opportunity that is relevant to the job. 

  2. Identify how you noticed it or a situation in which it arose.

  3. Describe the action steps you’re taking to improve this weakness.

Remember to choose a "weakness" that isn't a core component of the role. Public speaking and time management are common weaknesses that can always be improved upon. They tend to be easy to provide examples of past situations for, as well as ways you've improved since that time.

The following structure is helpful as a template for developing your response:

I used to have trouble with [WEAKNESS]. I noticed it when [SITUATION] and since then, I've been working to address this by [ACTION]. I realized I was improving because [IMPACT].

Variations of the weaknesses question

Some interviewers may use alternative phrasing to "soften" this question. That might include:

• What are some of your top areas for improvement?

• What are your professional challenges and how are you tackling them?

• What would colleagues or mentors say you need to work on?


Sample answers to the weaknesses question

Below are examples of answers you can model to demonstrate your self-awareness, interest in finding areas to improve upon, and commitment to excellence.

Sample technical skills answer:

“As a content writer, one growth opportunity I’ve identified is getting better at building the right information architecture. 

In previous writing positions, the short pieces I’ve written have gotten great results in the form of new subscribers, followers, and even paying customers. But as I build longer pieces of content, I’m noticing that I need a better approach to structuring content so that people read all the way to the bottom and take action.

Two ways I’m improving in the area of information architecture are: 1) taking courses in content writing, technical writing, and UX writing, and 2) testing the success of my own blog content.”  

Sample interpersonal skills answer: 

“I’d like to improve at reaching out for help and asking questions when I get stuck. 

In previous roles, I often attempted to work through challenges independently because I didn’t want to reveal gaps in my training or skill set. This would often make tasks and projects take longer than if I’d simply reached out to a colleague or manager with my questions. 

One way I’m getting better at asking for help is by reserving time each week to make a list of challenges I’m facing and then reach out immediately to people who can help.”

Sample workplace skills answer: 

“One area for improvement is sticking to my own priorities and deadlines while also being available to support colleagues. 

In previous roles, I’ve felt compelled to help colleagues with their tasks, even when my own deadlines are looming, in an effort to find allies at work. This resulted in having to work really fast on my projects, and in some cases, skip important steps in order to meet deadlines.

I’ve been working on this recently by identifying priority projects and tasks and scheduling calendar notifications. I’ve also composed an email template to use when letting colleagues know when I can offer help once I’ve met my own deadlines.” 

Examples of weaknesses for a job interview

If you're struggling to decide which "weaknesses" to prepare responses for your upcoming job interview, here are a few good examples to use:

  • Perfectionism

  • Public speaking

  • Self-doubt or insecure

  • Disorganized

  • Procrastination 

  • Delegating tasks

  • Conflict or confrontation avoidant

  • Competitive 

  • Risk-averse

  • Sensitive or emotional

  • Overthinking

  • Impatient

  • Extreme introversion or extroversion

  • Limited experience in a skill or software (be sure this is not essential to the job)

It might be a good idea to make a list of two or three weaknesses of your own and formulate answers using the template above. That way, you'll be primed and ready to tackle this question when the time comes. 

Tips for choosing a weakness

Here are some ways to reflect on past experiences to choose a weakness to talk about.

1. Reflect on growth opportunities in your professional life.

Identify actual growth opportunities that can help you perform your role, from skills you need to build to the productivity methods you need to implement.

Draw from these examples:

Opportunities to grow technical skills:

  • Mastering the latest software in your industry 

  • Improving your writing abilities 

  • Learning data analysis 

Opportunities to grow workplace skills: 

  • Practicing active listening with colleagues 

  • Paying more attention to the details of a task 

  • Coming up with solutions to problems 

Opportunities to grow interpersonal skills:

  • Asking for support 

  • Motivating and encouraging colleagues

  • Moderating difficult conversations at work 

Opportunities to improve productivity:

  • Prioritizing tasks

  • Optimizing your schedule

  • Focusing your attention on one task at a time

  • Delegating tasks

2. Reflect on feedback you’ve received. 

Look back on the jobs you’ve had, classes you’ve taken, or teams you’ve collaborated with to achieve a goal. Write down the ways in which mentors, managers, teachers, and colleagues evaluated your performance. 

For example, team members may have asked you to communicate with them more often when issues arose. Or perhaps there were tasks you could have completed more skillfully.  

Write down what you learned from this feedback and how you implemented it. How might there still be room for improvement in these areas? Who can you ask in your current network to offer constructive feedback?

3. Prioritize growth opportunities that are actionable. 

Highlight the growth opportunities that you can easily take concrete action to improve upon. That way, when it comes time to answer the weakness question in your interview, you’ll be able to demonstrate not only the growth opportunity but your growth potential as a professional. 

For example, you can build new technical skills by taking courses or improve verbal communication skills by joining a discussion group. 

4. Narrow down your list of weaknesses.

Select weaknesses from your list that will best present you as an asset to the company you’re interested in working for. Here are some strategies for narrowing down your list:

Use this question as an opportunity to shine

Exclude overused weakness examples, such as being a perfectionist or a workaholic. Interviewers hear these answers often. Instead, take this opportunity to demonstrate your ability to self reflect more deeply.


Next steps 

As you continue along your career path and interview for new positions, you might find it useful to keep a list of growth opportunities.

Periodically ask yourself: What can I do to learn more and improve? How might I apply these learnings to my personal and professional life? That way, you can have ready-made answers to the weakness question at your fingertips and adopt a growth mindset. 

Coursera Plus offers hundreds of courses and professional certificates that you can use to boost your skill set and advance your career. 

Coursera Plus
Build job-ready skills with a Coursera Plus subscription
  • Get access to 7,000+ learning programs from world-class universities and companies, including Google, Yale, Salesforce, and more
  • Try different courses and find your best fit at no additional cost
  • Earn certificates for learning programs you complete
  • A subscription price of $59/month, cancel anytime

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.