How to Communicate Your Weaknesses

Four Parts:Help Communicating Your WeaknessesPractice Self-AwarenessCommunicating Weaknesses In An InterviewSample Responses

There will come a time in everyone’s career (or life in general) when a person is asked to identify their primary weaknesses. It is also a very common interview question, and a tough one to answer because there's no "great" responses. If you are not ready for this question, it can be very awkward and the answer may not come across in a good way. Learn how to identify and understand your weaknesses and how to properly communicate them to others.

Help Communicating Your Weaknesses

Sample Essay About Weaknesses

Sample Phrases to Avoid When Describing Weaknesses

Sample Ways to Address Weaknesses

Part 1
Practice Self-Awareness

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    Understand the question. When you’re asked about your weaknesses, especially in an interview, it’s usually not the weakness that’s the most important thing. It’s whether you are aware of your weaknesses and what you do about them. If the answer is “I don’t have any," then it becomes obvious that the primary weakness is a lack of self-awareness. Also, it's important to understand that being aware of weaknesses is not the same as being weak. Knowing about and compensating for your weakness is in fact a very important strength.
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    Be prepared. You should regularly examine yourself to identify your primary weaknesses. If you don’t know what they are, you can’t communicate them to others. If you already know the answer, you won’t have to fumble and you will have considerably greater esteem in the eyes of the interviewer.
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    Analyze your weaknesses regularly. As indicated above, this is not a one-time shot. You should do this exercise on a somewhat regular basis. Start with a 3-month recurring cycle and if that’s too often, drop it down to once every 6 months.
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    Be honest but strategic. Saying "I'm a perfectionist, and I hold people too accountable" when you're not, and you don't, isn't a good idea. When someone asks you about your weaknesses, be honest. Tell the truth. At the same time, learn how to massage the truth to put your best foot forward. (This is called "public relations.") This will help you present yourself as a more well-rounded candidate.

Part 2
Communicating Weaknesses In An Interview

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    Give the interviewer an actual weakness. Twisting your answer to make it seem like your primary weakness is that you’re already perfect will always fail. “My greatest weakness is that I’m too much of a perfectionist" would make the interviewer think you live in denial of yourself. If this is truly an area you struggle in, make your answer honest and relatable to the interviewer with a response such as, “I sometimes over-analyze my work products which can cause me to fall behind in other tasks.”
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    Be clear and concise. Don’t overstate things or ramble. The interviewer is looking for something very specific in this question.
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    Immediately follow with a proactive solution. You’ve clearly identified your weakness, stated it concisely and shown that you have good awareness of your personal issues. You can now show them what you are doing to work on this problem.
    • “I sometimes over-analyze my work products which can cause me to fall behind in other tasks. To avoid that, I set aside a specific amount of time for review. When that time is up, I move to the next task on my list of priorities.” You've now proven that you can not only identify your weaknesses, but develop useful methods to overcome them.
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    Stop and wait. After you answer the question, stop talking. Wait for the interviewer to speak next. You’re done. You’ve given them what they asked for, so wait for a response. You might have to wait an uncomfortable amount of time.
    • The interviewer might very well insert (on purpose) a lengthy pause to see what you’ll do. Look them in the eye with a comfortable expression on your face and wait for them to give you feedback.
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    Be prepared for the interviewer to pry further. You should have three weaknesses and compensatory techniques at your fingertips. The interviewer is quite likely to ask you the same question a second time and often a third time.
    • If you get asked a fourth time, there’s a good way to handle that. “When I do this exercise, maybe once a quarter or so, the list might change from time to time. I limit my focus to three current weaknesses so I don’t become overwhelmed. If you ask me again in June, I might have a different answer for you then.”

Part 3
Sample Responses

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    "I don't take initiative as much as I'd like." Employers generally like people who take initiative. For one, they don't have to babysit you while you sit back and wait for tasks to be given to you. Second, it means that you're constantly thinking about how you can add value to the company. Here's how you might approach this weakness.
    • "I don't take initiative as much as I'd like. My last job was one in which following orders was very important, and one in which improvising was frowned upon. I realized that I gradually shied away from doing things independently for fear of upsetting my boss or undercutting company policy. Moving forward, I realize that most positions, and especially this one, value a degree of initiative. I try to be absolutely clear about the expectations of the project before I start working so that I can attack different angles or follow different leads while still staying on track."
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    "I don't always manage my time effectively." Managing your time is crucial to employers. They're looking for someone who can ideally do the most amount of work in the least amount of time. You really want to hit this answer out of the park if you choose it. At the same time, a lot of people are bad time-managers, so don't expect to tell the interviewer anything s/he hasn't heard before.
    • "I don't always manage my time effectively. To tell you the truth, sometimes I get sucked down a rabbit hole and neglect to balance all the other responsibilities of my job. I'm compulsive about getting things right the first time, sometimes at the expense of other tasks. This causes me to fall behind on projects periodically. Moving forward, I'm learning how to get better at tying one project up when it looks like I'll fall behind on another, without using shortcuts or mailing in it. I'm planning ahead, asking appropriate channels for help when necessary, and finding more efficient, equally effective ways, of getting the job done."
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    "I take on a leadership role when it's not designated to me." This weakness is the polar opposite of weakness #1, failing to take initiative. Employers might be nervous about you stepping on your bosses toes. Instead, assure them that you understand what you are doing and are learning to be a role-player when needed:
    • "I take on a leadership role when it's not designated to me. Sometimes, this caused tension between me and the project lead, who understandably is trying to do her job. I'm learning how to trust people with their own responsibilities, and not smothering a project because of my own ego. I realize that letting people do their designated job makes a team a lot more successful in the long run, even if the team drops the ball in the short term. I'm focused on becoming a better team player by letting everyone do his or her own job, and helping when necessary."
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    "I talk too much." Certainly, this isn't a weakness that you can profitably use if you're introverted, laconic, and shy. In other words, make sure you are who you say you are. Employers will want someone who is focused on work, not on telling jokes or learning about each and every coworker's weekend. Reassure them you're prioritizing the right kind of communication:
    • "I talk too much. I'm a very extroverted, sociable person, which means that I have a weakness for not-always-workplace-related interactions. I'm getting better at channeling that extroversion into the right kind of communication. I'm leaving weekend updates for happy hour, and learning how to listen first and speak second, instead of the other way around. I know that I can sometimes drown other voices out, so I'm proactively asking colleagues to cut me off if I go off-topic or start dominating the conversation."
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    "I'm not great at public speaking." This one is kind of a "spin" response, because for most positions, you're not going to be expected to speak in front of large audiences. But this response could actually be a sympathetic weakness: some people have a soft spot for verbal fumblers. Again, focus on drawing out some positive aspect of your phobia if you plan on using this weakness.
    • I'm not great at public speaking. I ham up in front of groups that are larger than a dozen people. I start sweating, fumble my words, and can't seem to communicate the ideas I'm actively thinking about. Public speaking to me is less a phobia and more of an anxiety about how people will judge my speaking ability. I understand that being in a group setting is an integral part of this position, and although I'm not perfect at it yet, I feel like I'm improving. I joined a hobbyist's debate club to improve my exposure to larger crowds. I'm forcing myself to speak up in smaller groups, focusing less on my ego and whether I "did well," and more on what I communicated and I how I communicated it."
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    "I'm not as organized as I could be." Certain professions, such as accountant or office assistant, really depend on consistent organization. If you're interviewing for such a position, think twice about giving this response. On the other hand, many professions, especially "ideas" professions, don't rely on expert organization to get the job done.
    • "I'm not as organized as I could be. I didn't used to keep organizers, or write down dates, because I was lazy about it. In college, I got by because I could keep my schedule in my head, and I could afford to be wrong once or twice along the way. Moving forward, I know that simple disorganization can produce errors or miscommunications that are unacceptable. I've taken to writing down every contact, meeting, and project goal in an online itinerary and syncing it in the cloud that I can have access from theoretically any computer. I've gotten a lot more scrupulous about organizing the things that make my job possible and filing away the ones that don't."


  • You may be able to use this exercise to augment your annual performance reviews by identifying areas in which you can improve and help to identify specific goals.
  • When one or more of your weaknesses might make it difficult for you to accomplish the job for which you are interviewing, you may want to consider other job options.
  • You can extract from the “strengths” portion of the exercise to improve a cover letter. Your strengths are things you bring to the table for a potential employer and it’s much more impressive if you definitely know what those are.
  • Make sure your final analysis is not unwieldy. It needs to be concise and easily stated:
  • Make notes from time-to-time about how well your compensatory techniques are working (or not working) so you can tweak them to your best advantage.
  • Keep in mind that strengths and weaknesses often go together. For example, a tendency to over-commit may reflect a dedication to a project or to helping other members of a team.
  • If you have staff, helping them become proficient at this will give you a great indicator of how to play to their strengths and assign less critical efforts that would make use of their weak areas.


  • Don’t ignore things you don't know how to fix. Just because you have a weakness and don’t know what to do about it doesn’t mean you should pretend it doesn’t exist. Write it down and start thinking about it. However, you might not want to elaborate on that in an interview until you’ve developed a compensatory technique for it.
  • Be aware that this technique is only as good as the person or people with whom you are speaking. Not everyone agrees that admitting weakness is a strength (some people may think less of you, or even use your weakness against you). It is always important to analyze situations and adapt. There is no single behavior that will always work.

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