How to Describe Your Weaknesses in a Job Interview

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Knowing how to answer “what’s your greatest weakness” can be helpful for job interviews. Turn this challenging interview question into a highlight of your potential.

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

The common interview question “What are your weaknesses?” can intimidate job seekers because it means confessing shortcomings to a company decision-maker. What kind of opinion will the interviewer form based on your answers? How might your weaknesses affect your chances of getting the job? 

Employers ask the question to better understand you as a potential employee. The great news is that knowing how to address your weaknesses for a job interview can actually allow you to shine. 

What weakness should I talk about? 

So, what are good weaknesses to mention in job interviews? In this section, you’ll see how, with the right mindset and strategy, you can find weaknesses that you can discuss honestly while presenting yourself as an asset to employers. 

1. Reframe weaknesses as growth opportunities.  

Before doing anything else, take a moment to shift from a critical frame of mind. To reframe your weaknesses as growth opportunities, it can help to reflect on the following questions:

  • What would you be capable of in your professional life if you took advantage of every growth opportunity? 

  • What would you strive for if all thoughts of failure or falling short dissolved? 

Write down everything that comes to mind; it can help you in the next step.

2. Explore growth opportunities in all areas of your professional life.

Now, look back at what you’ve written to identify learning and growth areas. It can help to characterize your weaknesses in terms of behaviours and what you can do to address them. 

For example, if your weakness is having difficulty asking for help, you might talk about how you want to prove you can do it yourself. Discussing the weakness in your interview shows you’re aware of the problem and know why you feel this way.

In determining your weaknesses for job interviews, 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

3. Reflect on the 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 how 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. When sharing these growth opportunities in an interview, acknowledge there might still be room for improvement. This can help you demonstrate that you are humble and heed constructive feedback.

4. Prioritize actionable growth opportunities. 

Review your notes and highlight growth opportunities you can quickly act upon. That way, when it’s time to answer the weakness question in your interview, you can demonstrate the opportunity and determination to reach your full potential as a professional. 

For example, if you fear public speaking, you might join a discussion group to discuss how you can improve your verbal communication skills. 

5. Narrow down your list of weaknesses.

Selecting the weaknesses that best present you as an asset to your prospective employer is important. Here are some strategies for narrowing down your list:

  • 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 reflect more deeply. 

  • Review the essential requirements of the job you’re applying for. If you have weaknesses in these areas, strike them from your list of weaknesses to describe to your interviewer, as these may disqualify you from the job. You can always seek additional skills training in these areas and ask your interviewer about opportunities to improve during a different part of the interview.

How to describe weaknesses in an interview 

Once you’ve prepared a list of weaknesses and narrowed it down, you must prepare your answer. 

Some interviewers may be aware of how uncomfortable the weakness question can make job candidates feel so that they may devise alternative phrasing. Keep your ears open for any version of the weakness question:

  • “What are some of your top areas for improvement, and what steps are you taking to improve?” 

  • “What are some of your professional challenges, and how are you tackling them?” 

  • “What would colleagues or mentors say you need to work on, and what are your ideas for doing that?”

No matter how the interviewer phrases the weakness question, your goal should be to answer it honestly, exhibit self-awareness and commitment to excellence, and offer value to the company.

To prepare your answer, use this strategy: 

  1. Identify a growth opportunity. 

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

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

Below are sample answers to the weakness question to exhibit 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, my short pieces 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 contacted a colleague or manager with my questions. 

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

Sample productivity/workplace skills answer: 

One area for improvement is sticking to my 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 deadlines are looming, to find allies at work. This resulted in having to work really fast on my projects and, in some cases, skip important steps to meet deadlines.

I’ve been working on this 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 deadlines.” 

Next steps 

As you continue along your career path and interview for new positions, you might find it helpful to keep an ongoing list of growth opportunities. Periodically ask yourself: What can I do to learn more and improve? How might I apply my knowledge 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. 

Remember to prepare thoroughly for any upcoming interview by researching the company, planning the logistics, and crafting potential answers to behavioural questions.

Build job-ready skills for a career in project management, cybersecurity, IT support, data analytics, or user experience (UX) design with a Professional Certificate on Coursera. Upon completion, gain access to resources to enhance your resume and practice your interview skills.


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