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How To Answer The Dreaded “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” Interview Question

Sophia Surrett  |  July 21, 2021

Anxious about telling an interviewer your greatest weakness and that you’re actually perfect for the job? Here’s how you can nail those questions we hate.

When you’re going into an interview, it’s intimidating enough to decide on the perfect outfit to wear and how best to present yourself to a new group of people. But then when you throw some tricky interview questions into the mix, you’ve got the perfect recipe for anxiety. 

Most of us get nervous before an interview — 93% of job candidates experienced anxiety due to an interview according to employer background check service provider JDP. And not being able to answer a difficult question is what makes us more nervous than anything else, according to the study. Yes, interview preparation can sometimes assuage our fears and help us feel more confident, but it’s one thing to practice with a friend, and it’s entirely another to be on the spot, in the hot seat, without any notes in front of you. 

Thankfully, those tricky questions from prospective bosses or hiring managers don’t have to leave you white-knuckled and stammering without anything substantive to say. Here’s how to give confident, tension-free, non-rushed answers to even the most anxiety-provoking questions. 

Your Greatest Weaknesses: Be Honest

Lying in an interview is a terrible idea. That’s why giving a sincere answer to all questions you’re asked is important, but knowing how to answer those questions is just as important. For example, when they ask, “What are your weaknesses?” You should truly tell them a weakness you have… No, this doesn’t mean telling them that you’re a crazy partier on the weekends or that you once stole a pair of earrings from a Claire’s when you were 14. Instead, you should answer with a weakness that’s not essential to the job you’d be performing, and offer some solutions that you’re working on to improve this weakness, says Katherine Metres Akbar, Founder and President of YES Career Coaching. 

You might be tempted to answer with a common “non-weaknesses” like saying that you’re a “perfectionist,” but don’t go there. That might make the interviewer think you are not genuine and not taking the interview seriously. (Or worse, that you don’t think you have any flaws.) Instead, look deeply within yourself. If you’re a manager of people and projects, could you be better at delegating tasks? Then say so. Maybe you’re so eager to start projects that you sometimes plow ahead without having all the details, and get ahead of yourself. (“Sometimes I get out over my skis” is a great way to answer that one.) Or maybe you tend to get stuck inside your own head with your own ideas and you need to get better at teamwork and take time to discuss your projects with others on your team. Everyone has flaws. Don’t be afraid to discuss yours and keep it real. An employer would much much rather hire someone who is aware of their flaws and working to change them than to hire someone who believes they’re infallible. 

Why Should We Hire You: Do Your Homework 

You know that interview that you scheduled for next week? Start preparing now. Preparing for an interview an hour or two before will lead to rushed answers and unclear (if not downright inaccurate) answers to the questions:  “What do you know about us?” or “Why should we hire you?” 

With that in mind, thoroughly look over the job description a few nights before your interview, so you can truly match up your skills with the description, and match up what you’re looking for with elements of their company culture. For example, if the job listing says the company is looking for someone who is a self-starter with great time management skills, then your answer to the “Why should we hire you?” question can be as simple and as straightforward as: “Over the last two years, I have been largely self-directed, meeting my own deadlines for all projects, and I’ve succeeded in working from home with very little oversight from my managers apart from weekly check-ins.” Bam. You nailed it. But without taking a long, hard look at the job description, that little nugget might have slipped through the cracks. 

Ready for the best part of your homework assignment? Get some serious R&R time the night before — you want to shoot for at least 8 hours of sleep and a fresh face in the morning. No puffy eyes and energy drink in hand. You got this. 

Calm, Cool, and Collected 

Everyone gets nervous. Even your interviewer is going to expect you to be a little shaken on your first interaction. But don’t let that get in the way of your preparation. (In other words, “Everyone gets nervous” shouldn’t be your excuse for walking into the room an anxious mess. Do everything you can to chill out.) Taking some deep breaths before the interview, taking a walk beforehand, and avoiding those three cups of coffee from your usual morning routine are great places to start. If a question pops up that you don’t know how to answer, take a breath, say, “That’s a great question,” then answer. This brief pause will give you time to form a well-thought answer. While blurting out the first thing that comes to mind might be your default, everyone can benefit from a few seconds pause. 

Remember, They’re Human, Too 

Interviews are like a first date, Akbar says. Don’t just talk about yourself the whole time, as a good interview should be a conversation between two people. TopInterview Career Expert Amanda Augustine says you should always go into any interview with a list of questions prepared. This shows you’ve thoroughly read through the job listing and researched the company, and you are genuinely interested. No, this doesn’t mean you should ask them so many questions that they can’t get a word in edgewise, but do show that you care, that you’re curious, and that you understand the demands of the job. Also, when you ask questions, it’s your opportunity to let your personality show through. Every hiring manager wants to bring someone on who is personable and will be a positive influence at the office. 

One of HerMoney’s favorite hints: Always follow up after your interview with a thank-you email, expressing your appreciation for their time, and following up with any additional questions you may have. A TopResume survey found that employers care more about post-interview thank-you notes now than they did in the past…  So be that classy person who sends them an amazing one! Just don’t refresh your inbox every 15 minutes to see if they’ve responded  — otherwise, you’ll have to add “impatient” to the top of your list of weaknesses ;).  

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