Weaknesses in a Job Interview: Helpful Tips for a Convincing Self-Presentation

Written by Kerstin Lakits, Jan 11, 2024

Almost every job interview includes questions about your weaknesses. This question can easily throw you off balance. However, the right preparation allows you to use this topic to your advantage and impress the recruiters or your future boss. So, you should reflect beforehand “What are my weaknesses?”. Furthermore, you should figure out how to phrase your weaknesses in the work interview. In this article, we are going to explain the preparation process, self-reflection and presentation of your weaknesses in a job interview!

Personal Weaknesses in a Job Interview: Why Are They Asked About?

Asking about your weaknesses in a job interview is a stress interview question. This means that the recruiters want to see how you act under stressful circumstances. The aim of this question is not to check whether you are qualified for the open position or fit for this activity. On the contrary, they want to know whether you reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and if you are honest. Furthermore, your future employer wants to know whether you can work on your weaknesses and ask for help in order to deliver the best possible result. This is wherein your potential and contribution to this company lay.

The Art of Perception: How to Identify Hidden Questions About Weaknesses in a Job Interview

The question about your weaknesses is not always formulated as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”. Sometimes recruiters ask indirect questions in a job interview. The HR employees want to make sure that you cannot use prepared answers for standard questions. They are looking for a spontaneous and honest answer. Here are some examples:

  • How would your friends/family describe you?
  • Which personality trait would you want to change about yourself?
  • What would your colleagues criticise you for?
  • How resilient/conflict-avoidant/motivated to learn/responsible/good of a team player are you on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • How much initiative do you bring to the table?
  • Which tasks at your last work were challenging for you?
  • Which aspect of the job description will be the most challenging for you?

These hidden questions about your weaknesses address certain qualities that are important to the company. The recruiters don’t specifically ask if this is a weakness, but rather how you would evaluate yourself.

Weaknesses in a Job Interview: Why You Shouldn’t Provide Standard Answers

Standard answers to the question “What are your weaknesses?” have developed over time. The HR employees know these standard replies and do not want to hear pre-rehearsed answers. If you pick standard answers from advisers or the Internet, you seem lazy and lacking creativity. You will also not be different to other applicants or leave a lasting impression with a standard answer. Furthermore, you miss the chance to convince the HR employees and show them how self-reflected and well-prepared you are.

Properly Preparing Before the Interview: How to Identify Your Personal Weaknesses and Discuss Them Confidently

Proper preparation is the first step to a confident self-presentation in a job interview so that this question won’t faze you. Here are some preparation steps:

  1. Think about your weaknesses. Be honest with yourself and reflect on the areas in your life that you struggled with in the past. Explain your weakness using an example, so that the recruiter understands in which situations and to what extent your weakness manifests. In the following section, you will find some common weaknesses.
  2. Make sure that your weaknesses do not contradict the core competencies of your new job because this position won’t be the right one for you. For example: If you want to work as a nurse, your weakness “don’t enjoy working with people” will be a huge obstacle.
  3. Come up with strategies and tricks that you can use to work on and balance out your weaknesses. On the one hand, this shows that you are working on yourself. On the other hand, you prove that your weakness will not affect your work significantly. For example: If you are sometimes a little bit unorganised, you can develop a system for your calendar so that you don’t miss any deadlines.

List: Potential Weaknesses in a Job Interview

We prepared a list of common weaknesses that you can mention in a job interview. So, you can think about which one applies to you. Depending on the job you are applying for, some weaknesses are worse than others. For example: If you apply for a position as a driver or chauffeur, no sense of orientation is a very serious weakness.

  • Easily nervous
  • Restless
  • Stubborn
  • Perfectionistic
  • Too introverted/extroverted
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Forgetful
  • Indecisive
  • Unable to say no
  • Not good at remembering names
  • Controlling
  • Too emotional/too unempathetic
  • No assertiveness
  • Not enjoy being on the phone
  • No work experience
  • Holes in your CV

When picking a weakness, you should also pick an example to explain your weakness. It is not sufficient to say “My weakness is…”. Explain how this weakness has affected your work so far.

Responding Correctly: How to Communicate Your Weaknesses in a Job Interview

Everybody has weaknesses. The crucial point is how you communicate and present your weaknesses. It is important that you show the HR employees that you are aware of your weaknesses and work on them.

Therefore, you should present your weaknesses as resolutions by using past experiences to explain how your weaknesses affect your work and life. Then offer concrete strategies and measures that you use to work on your weaknesses. It’s best to also show your progress. How heavily did it affect you in the beginning and how are you handling it now after having worked on it?

Here is an example of what that would look like: “I don’t like public speaking. At school, my voice would shake and I would turn red during presentations. When I was studying, I attended speaking and rhetoric trainings. Now I am able to hold calm presentations and speak in front of an audience.”

Avoiding Mistakes: Don’ts When Mentioning Weaknesses in a Job Interview

There are many pitfalls and traps when it comes to the question about your weaknesses in a job interview. This question is not an invitation to unload all of your problems and negative character traits and to have a really good moan to your future employers.

Humour is also not appropriate in a job interview since the HR employees are looking for a serious and thoughtful answer. You should avoid answers like “Can you repeat the question? I don’t always listen.”, “Chocolate is my weakness.” or “My biggest weakness is: my bank account!”

Some job interview experts recommend that you present a strength as a weakness, for example “I am too organised”. This will not show your self-reflection skills, but make you seem disagreeable. Claiming that you don’t have any weaknesses is not only false (because everybody has strengths and weaknesses), but will also lead your interview partner to believe that you are arrogant and ignorant.

The Right Number: How Many Weaknesses Should You Mention in a Job Interview?

If you are not asked for a specific number of weaknesses, you should make sure that you mention more strengths than weaknesses. Two to three weaknesses are sufficient to prove that you are self-reflected and honest. More important than the number of weaknesses is their strategic presentation. This means that you should keep in mind what job you are applying for and how much your chosen weakness would influence your work.

Self-Criticism as a Strength: The Benefits of an Authentic Presentation of Weaknesses in a Job Interview

Why are self-reflection and self-criticism the best traits and ways to work with your weaknesses? Because self-critical people can question themselves and don’t automatically look for mistakes or problems with other people or external circumstances. On the contrary, self-critical people can admit mistakes, learn from them and improve. Self-critical people bring the biggest potential for growth and success to companies! If your colleagues see that you are ready to take responsibility for your mistakes and weaknesses, it automatically makes you more trustworthy and reliable. Furthermore, you are leading by example, showing your colleagues that they can authentically own up to their mistakes without being screamed at, humiliated or fired. An honest and thoughtful response will leave the HR employee with a good impression and you will seem more likeable.

Strengths in a Job Interview: Your Time to Shine

Your strengths are the second medallion of self-reflection. This means that your new employer wants to know whether you know and can present your positive qualities and strengths. The aim of this question is not to paint yourself as superman or superwoman who can do everything. Rather you should provide an honest evaluation of your strengths.

The question “What are your strengths?” needs preparation as well so that you don’t mumble something unprepared. It’s best to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses together. Come up with a list of strengths and weaknesses. What are you especially good at? What comes easy to you? What is your benefit for this company?

There is no set amount of strengths that you need to mention during the job interview. As you prepare, you should pick a handful. Quality is more important than quantity. A few specific, well-prepared strengths are better than a long list of general strengths. Here are some strengths that will impress recruiters if you present them right:

  • willingness to learn
  • empathy
  • stress resilience
  • organisational skills
  • initiative
  • creativity
  • problem-solving
  • power of persuasion
  • reliability
  • communication skills
  • analytical thinking
  • openness
  • independent work

Make sure that you pick strengths that fit the job description of the job you are applying for. While communication skills and customer service skills are important when you work with customers, analytical thinking and problem-solving are especially relevant in the management sector.

It is important that you explain your strengths using an example or past experiences. For example: “My biggest strength is my willingness to learn. After my introduction at my last work, I participated in voluntary courses and learned more about this subject because I want to deliver the best possible performance.”

The most important thing about your response is that you are honest, authentic and thoughtful. Avoid exaggerations and find a balance between self-promotion and reality.

Conclusion: Leveraging Weaknesses in a Job Interview as Strengths

The job interview is the perfect opportunity to present your authentic self. Your strengths are your biggest assets that will convince your future boss. By presenting your weaknesses as resolutions, you show your interview partner that you are thoughtful, self-critical and honest. The character traits are strengths that will balance out your weaknesses. So, in the end it is more about the way you present and handle your weaknesses than which weakness you mention.

Here are more tips for the perfect job interview and special job interview tips for students!


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