SHA Top Ten Blog: Greatest Weakness Interview Question Dos and Don’ts

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How best to answer the interview question, What is your greatest weakness? Also disguised as: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? What are the parts of this job that will be the most challenging for you? What is something you could have done differently? What would your boss/co-workers/clients say is something you could work on? What decisions do you find the toughest to make? When is the last time you were angry?

DO the Same as Every Other Interview Question

Align Answer with CURRENT Position

Every interview question should relate to the position you are CURRENTLY interviewing for. What relevance does your answer have for this company, this hiring manager, this job.

Be Honest

Believability and likeability is often tied to the realism of your answer. You may have to work on “packaging” your answer, but it should always be the truth.

Answer the Question You were Asked

Answering a different question, i.e. giving a strength instead of a weakness, using humor, kryptonite is my weakness, or an inability to come up with a weakness is not the way to get this job offer. All of these will be perceived as arrogance or avoidance.

Dos for the Greatest Weakness Interview Question

Pick a Weakness You Have a Solution For

Choose a weakness that is minor enough it doesn’t raise red flags, but not so minor that it is a cop-out.

Highlight the Positives

Turn this negative interview question, into a positive discussion of how you surmounted your flaw, or how you were able to work through and learn from this weakness.

Don’ts for the Greatest Weakness Interview Question

Avoid Essential Skills for This Job

Don’t pick a skill that is listed in the job description to be your weakness.

Pick Non-Professional Qualities

This is not psychotherapy. Not working out, or keeping a messy kitchen or bedroom are not flaws relevant to the work place. Your personal life should stay personal.

Be Too Revealing

Interesting is good but providing too much drama, too much back-story around the explanation of your weakness will eliminate you from consideration.

Answer Ideas for your Greatest Weakness


I’m one of those neat people, you know, the ones with the clean desks even though they are in the middle of ten projects. I like to complete my to-do list every day, even though that is clearly unrealistic. Sometimes I’m too detail oriented. Keeping the big picture in mind and not tying up every loose end can be more productive for my customers, than perfection, and I am getting there!

Work Too Hard

I know that this sounds like a strength and not a weakness but taking on too much either in projects or responsibility and then having to work longer hours than is healthy, is a problem I have dealt with in the past. I love this work and I find most projects I’m involved in fascinating, but I also love my family and my life outside of work, so I work very hard assessing the work load of each project and the time frame required for results. Doing this work up front means better results for the company and a better, well rested employee for the company as well.


I’ve had to learn to keep my impatience in check. I used to feel that this sense of urgency helped make things happen, was a good driver of results. I’ve learned that while that sometimes is true, it can create unnecessary anxiety in me, my co-workers and even my clients. Now I take a deep breath and assess the “need for speed” and act more appropriately.

Lack of Spontaneity

I have always wanted to be the person who understood where a joke was going before the punchline, or come up with a fabulous solution while we were still in the meeting discussing the problem, but I’m not. I need to mull things over, sleep on it. It doesn’t make me the life of the party, but I come to a problem prepared with a well-thought out plan of action.

Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism

I actually think I’m pretty good about hearing criticism about myself or my work, but I’m still learning how to give constructive criticism to my co-workers or subordinates. There is often a need to disagree, that discussion of the problem from different sides will be revealing and helpful. Swallowing that input is not productive and finding a way to share it in a positive manner is an ongoing effort for me. I don’t create conflict but internalizing my thoughts isn’t the best course of action either.

Interested in discussing your greatest weakness with the experienced recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates? Contact Pharmaceutical Sales Practice Lead, Nancy Ragonese at nragonese@smithhanley.com or 203.319-4315.

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