Interviews and assessment centres

'What is your biggest weakness?' Tricky graduate interview question

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

The ‘biggest weakness’ interview question appears to be asking you to reveal your shortcomings but, if you use the right tactics it can be a golden opportunity to show that you're right for the job.

The image shows a woman struggling to answer an interview question about her biggest weakness.

When you're being interviewed you want to show yourself in the best possible light, so what do you do if you are asked to talk about your biggest weakness as an interview question? You’ll need to think about it in advance to be in a much better position to come up with a response that tackles the question but still helps you to come across in a positive light. Read our guide below as we take you step by step through the options you have to answer the question ‘what is your biggest weakness’ at a job interview.

Why are you being asked about weaknesses? | Match your weakness to the employer | How to answer the biggest weakness interview question | How to identify your biggest weaknesses

Short on time? Discover two answers to this question in under 2 minutes

Our targetjobs career expert shares two great ways to answer the classic interview question ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ – one example that shows you overcoming a weakness and one example that shows you showcasing your strengths.


Our targetjobs career expert shares two answers to interview questions about your weaknesses.

Why is a graduate recruiter asking you about your biggest weakness at interview?

This question is designed to test analytical abilities and self-awareness, so having a confident answer to this will impress. You’ll need to avoid taking a self-deprecating approach in an attempt to win the interviewer over.

When you are being asked the ‘biggest weakness’ interview question, you need to understand that you’re not being asked about shortcomings. That is certainly how it appears at first glance, and it will likely trigger your instincts to keep your flaws as well hidden as possible. Instead you need to respond according to what the recruiter is testing:

  • Self-awareness – you are being asked to talk about something that is personal. You need to determine what is unique to you and determine what skills and traits you have, as well as be able to articulate them clearly.
  • Analytical ability – after you’ve determined the qualities that you have, you’ll need to grade them appropriately according to which is ‘weakest’. You don’t necessarily want to blurt out your failings, but rather you’ll need to analyse how you can improve on the weaker end of your skills/traits.
  • Confidence – can you hold up to criticism or examine weakness without getting frustrated, upset or losing focus? Working life will have its own pitfalls, recruiters want to see that you can talk about your biggest weaknesses without letting them rule you.
  • Honesty – is it genuine? Is this really an aspect of your personality or have you just picked an example off the internet? Recruiters do want to know who you are as a candidate and will likely be able to tell if you have pinched examples off of the internet. However, if you’ve followed the points above, hopefully you’ve reached a stage where you have managed to identify big weaknesses that are personal and unique to you.

Match your biggest weakness to the employer

‘What is your biggest weakness?’ is a common question at job interviews, which means that it is a good idea to prepare some answers in advance and draw on your research into the organisation and the role you are applying for. If there are certain kinds of task you feel you do not excel at and these are not listed as key requirements on the job advert, you could make these the focus of your answer. However, it's still worth trying to show how you manage when you are called upon to draw on skills that are not your natural strength. In the examples below, we look at what might be mentioned on a job advert for a sales role or teamworking role. Think about what might be listed as the key competencies or desirable skills and how you might adapt them to suit what your biggest weaknesses (and strengths) are.

For example, if you are applying for a sales role in which you are going to have tough regular targets to meet and will be working in a competitive environment, you could explain how you find deadlines and targets motivating and enjoy the buzz of striving to achieve, but you find it difficult to sustain your enthusiasm and commitment in a slower-paced set-up in which you don't have clearly defined responsibilities and feel you aren't sufficiently challenged. Then, if appropriate, you could explain how you coped in such a situation, even though it went against the grain of your natural inclinations. For example, perhaps you used your initiative and sought out additional responsibilities.

Alternatively, if you are applying for a job on a project team in which you will support colleagues and draw on their expertise, you could discuss a time when you have found it hard to keep going because you were working in isolation. Then explain how you overcame this.

How to answer the ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ interview question

Ultimately you’ll need to come up with your own personal examples to answer a question about your biggest weakness at interview, but there are a number of approaches that might be effective.

Your biggest weakness that you’re working on

You could show that, although you may have had a problem in the past, you’ve taken steps to combat it. For example: ‘I used to find that pressure got to me but I’ve found ways to minimise this. I went on a time management course at university, which has helped me to organise myself and reduce my stress.’

This meets the criteria that we talked about in the opening of this article. You’re being honest about something, you’ve got the confidence to admit a potential weakness, but you’re also analytical and self aware enough that you have taken steps to address it.

Your biggest weakness is really a strength

The best response, arguably, is to describe your biggest weakness in a way that could also be viewed as a strength. Avoid the old cliche: 'I'm a perfectionist'. It has made its way into popular culture and recruitment circles to such an extent that recruiters will likely think that you’ve made it up. If you really do feel the need to use it, narrow the focus down to select a single element of perfectionism, such as: ‘Because I tend to get very passionate about the work I do, I get frustrated if others don’t share my enthusiasm.’

Your biggest weakness is in between a strength and a failing

Most strengths – attention to detail, teamworking and so on – have the potential to shade over into weakness. Instead of looking at your biggest weakness, look at your strengths and try to see aspects that you’d like to improve upon. For example, if you’re a natural team worker, do you find it difficult to cope with conflict or to assume leadership responsibilities? If you’re great at the details, do you sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture? Another way to approach this question is to think about how you overcome the potential downside of your biggest strength.

How to identify the skills that you could use as a biggest weakness at a job interview

If you’re having trouble determining what skills you have in order to wheedle out the biggest weakness in the flock, then take a look at our targetjobs advice article on the top ten skills that will get you a job when you graduate . The list includes a host of useful skills that you may wish to demonstrate on a job application, but try also to think of how each one could have a downside, or how your personal experience of each may have a downside. Don’t be afraid when looking for holes in your experience; the point is to understand how you can learn and develop in future and overcome difficulties.

You can practise your answers to tricky interview questions using resources from our partners at Shortlist.Me .

Get help on answering more difficult interview questions with our article on the top nine tough tricky interview questions and answers .

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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