Answering the “Greatest Weakness” Interview Question

Answering the “Greatest Weakness” Interview Question

It’s hard to believe that in the past 50 years, we have progressed from stationary rotary phones to mobile wrist watch phones, but the “Greatest Weakness” question interviewers ask candidates hasn’t changed. Although, some HR practitioners believe the question should be stricken entirely, it actually has a purpose and there may be better ways to ask and answer it. Let’s explore.

The question has become so overly used that cliché responses are almost expected, “I’m too much of a perfectionist”, or “I don’t sleep enough at night because I work around the clock.” Yes, candidates dodge the bullet, but may leave the interviewer thinking the candidate is a programmed drone or just easily forgettable.

When you boil it down, what interviewers really seek when asking this question is to get a clearer picture of personal traits such as:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Understanding of job requirements
  3. Honesty/Authenticity
  4. Need for continuous improvement
  5. Overcoming limitations with actions

For the interviewer

For the interviewer, the greatest weakness question allows the candidate to express in his/her own words what the interviewer may already know, especially if the interviewer is using DISC in the pre-interview process. It’s not a bad idea to have a copy of the candidate report in-hand when interviewing as well.

Aside from the fact that the interviewer could skip the question altogether and rely on predictive analytics instead, the question is actually an opportunity for the interviewer to discover the five points above using the candidates own narrative.

The interviewer should keep the five points handy during the interview and check off whether the candidate has effectively satisfied each trait in their answer.

Here are other ways to ask the question, which may yield different results:

  • What has challenged you in the past?
  • What is something that coworkers or bosses have criticized about you or your work?

For the candidate

For the candidate, the question is an opportunity to showcase a succinct and graceful execution of the dreaded “weakness” question. It should be seen as a positive challenge and chance to really nail a predictable question.

The greatest weakness question is an opportunity for you to craft a behavioral story which illustrates the five points above, but when crafting, keep this in mind:


  • Actually disclose your greatest weakness!
  • Say “I can’t”, or refer to your “weakness”, instead say “I had difficulty with…” or “struggled with…” to put a hopeful, and in-the-past spin on it.
  • Be too detailed about your weakness. The interviewer is not a shrink.
  • Spend time describing your weakness, instead spend time talking about how you overcame your weakness.
  • Talk about being too perfect. Interviewers don’t want perfectionists, just people who are self-aware and willing to improve.


  • Prepare for this question. What do you have to lose if it isn’t asked?
  • Know the requirements of the job, and make sure you don’t choose a weakness in a core requirement of the position.
  • Choose a weakness that is skill-based, but not in a skill central to your prospective position. Try to avoid character-based weaknesses, unless asked specifically for an example.
  • Take the Student Strengths assessment or DISC Career Style Report before your interview to better understand your strength and limitations.

Examples of Skill-based weaknesses:

“Public speaking”

  • I had difficulty with public speaking.
  • I joined a Toastmasters class.
  • Now, I speak often in public meetings and seminars, and I struggle less.


  • I struggled with PowerPoint; it took me too long to create a presentation
  • I researched templates and stock photos.
  • Now, I create PowerPoints quickly with templates and pre-purchased stock photos.

Read more on our blog about how to answer other tough interview questions, such as How to showcase your strengths.

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Written by: Coleen Kulkin

Coleen is the Director of Product Development at PeopleKeys, helping bring new DISC products and updated reports to-market through research, development, validation studies and testing. Personality Style: S