Dos and Don’ts: The “Greatest Weakness” Question

“What is your greatest weakness?” This may be the most dreaded and difficult question to answer during an interview. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, there is a tactful way to answer this without completely ruining your chances. Since no answer is perfect and everyone struggles with this question, it’s more about avoiding a bad response than nailing a perfect one.

What to Say

What NOT to Say

DO: Give a legitimate weakness

Face the question head-on with honesty. Provide an answer that isn’t directly related to the position. Saying “I’m a poor public speaker” is an acceptable answer for an accountant, but not for a teacher. Use your best judgment.

DON’T: Use a “non-answer”

Saying you can’t think of a specific weakness or using a cliché are common non-answers. Essentially this is a diversion tactic used to avoid providing a real weakness. This rarely works, and the interviewer will most likely ask for a different response.

DO: Turn a strength into a weakness

Using a strength as a weakness can be effective. For example, mention that while you have great attention to detail, you sometimes lose track of the big picture.

DON’T: Turn a weakness into a strength

“I work too hard!” or “I’m a perfectionist.” As the go-to answer for most interviewees, this tactic won’t help you stand out.

DO: Use a non-detrimental weakness

You can answer this question with weaknesses that would only be short-term until you felt comfortable in the position. For example, if you’re applying for a position in a different industry, saying lack of experience in this specific industry could be non-detrimental if you are a strong learner.


DON’T: Use one detrimental to your job

Be careful what you choose. If you’re going into accounting and you say you are bad with numbers, then you’ve essentially just eliminated yourself from the running.

DO: Convey how you’re improving

Bring up how you’re improving the weakness you mention. For example, if you say you are unorganized, then mention the new planner, the new filing process, or the new calendar app for your phone.


DON’T: Joke or use a personal ailment

Saying “I’m a terrible cook” or “I’m a catholic” as a joke won’t get you anywhere. Back problems or other personal ailments are not relevant to the conversation.

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