How to Answer "What's Your Greatest Weakness?"

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    You got the call and you have an interview set up for your dream job! Congrats! Yay!...But...wait. Now you have to prepare for the interview so that you stand out from the twenty other applicants who got the same phone call. Here's one question that trips up a lot of candidates, but is one you can nail if you are prepared.

    How to Answer "What's Your Greatest Weakness?"

    What's Your Greatest Weakness?

    This question most assuredly will be asked. It's dreaded by most people, because it raises a fear of vulnerability and besides, who wants to reveal their weaknesses?
    The key is to take control and turn it around into a positive.
    Here's how to turn it into an interview win for you.

    They Don't Want to Know Your Weakness

    The first thing to understand is- they don't really want the truth!
    They definitely don't want to know your personal weaknesses (you binge on ice cream, you're insecure, you get jealous). You won't get points for candidly coming clean and telling them you forget your mother's birthday.

    It's designed to see if you demonstrate self-awareness and are committed to professional growth and improvement. Show them that and you will be an outstanding candidate.

    Don't Give These Answers to "What's Your Weakness?"

    Do not say "I'm a perfectionist" or "I work too hard" The interviewers have heard these too many times, and it's disingenuous on your part.

    Do not say "I panic when I get overwhelmed" or "I can't do math calculations" because math skills and stress management are both core skill sets needed for the job.

    Do not say "I'm not good at public speaking" or "I struggle with Excel formulas" because these are not skills required for the job and it will be seen as a copout.

    Guidelines for Composing Your Answer
    • When talking about a negative, be brief and matter of fact (de-emphasize the negative)
    • Spend one quarter of your answer on your weakness and three quarters on how you are improving (re-focus)
    • Frame your weakness as an opportunity you've identified for professional improvement and growth (self-awareness)
    • Speak to your action plan (initiative)
    • Avoid using negative words such as weakness or failure (positive focus)
    • Use positive words such as challenge and area for growth (positive focus)
    • Describe the progress you've made in a story or example (stories are memorable)
    • Close on a positive note (leave positive impression)

    In this way, you have skillfully turned a weakness into a positive while still owning it.

    Choosing Your Weakness

    When choosing the weakness you are going to use for your interview, pick something work-related and fixable. Make sure that it's not something critical to the job, but that it is something germane to the job.

    Your goal is to present a genuine weakness that does not damage your potential for the position.

    Answer Examples

    "English is my second language. I read and write well, but I want to be more comfortable with idiomatic English. I'm taking an English as Second Language course at the community college."

    " I don't always delegate as much as I should, because I always want to do everything myself! I've come to see that delegating is important in order to work as a team and get everything done. Every shift on my last rotation, I made it a point to delegate more each day. It's still out of my comfort zone, but I'm improving daily."

    "I'm working on my time management skills. I'm learning to batch my tasks whenever possible, and to carry enough needed supplies with me. When I anticipate what my patients might need, I'm better prepared and save time."

    Rehearse Your Answer

    Rehearse out loud with another person until you feel comfortable with your delivery. Each time it should be a little bit different while still including all your talking points. Do not memorize your answer.

    Tip: Be prepared with two answers, as they may listen to your first answer and then say "That's great, thank you! Now can you tell us about another weakness?"

    Good luck! I think you got this!


    Best wishes,
    Nurse Beth

    Related articles:
    How to Prepare for Your Inteview
    Why You Need an Elevator Speech
    Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

    For answers to more of your career questions, be sure to visit the Ask Nurse Beth Advice Column.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jun 2, '15
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    28 Comments

  3. by   meanmaryjean
    Great article!

    This is a true story: I was on an interview panel for a previous job. One candidate answered this very question with "Sometimes, I think I'm just TOO humble."

    (She got the job!)
  4. by   Nurse Beth
    [/QUOTE]This is a true story: I was on an interview panel for a previous job. One candidate answered this very question with "Sometimes, I think I'm just TOO humble."

    (She got the job!)[QUOTE]

    Hahaha I just snorted my coffee! That is hilarious! Thanks for the good laugh.
    Last edit by Nurse Beth on May 31, '15 : Reason: add quote
  5. by   BoxingRN
    How would you feel about one stating that their weakness is trying to please everybody? Being in a leadership role I've learned that this is absolutely impossible and that I must accept that not everyone will be happy with decision I make, but I have to stand by it.
  6. by   klone
    I think that's good! That's actually something I'm working on right now as well.
  7. by   LadyFree28
    I think I used that I communicate a lot, but used that I'm working on improving SBAR, and used my experience as a nursing supervisor to help with SBAR and how to effectively communicate with providers, peers, and anxious and disgruntled pts and family members.
  8. by   Nurse Beth
    How would you feel about one stating that their weakness is trying to please everybody? Being in a leadership role I've learned that this is absolutely impossible and that I must accept that not everyone will be happy with decision I make, but I have to stand by it.
    I like it for an interview because it's common to many people (especially nurses?) and I can just see the interviewers nodding in agreement.

    It comes across as genuine and self-revealing enough to gain likeability. Once they like you, they pull for you.
    Actually, it's genius! Why didn't I think of this as an example for an article?

    <In an actual interview, you would then go on to talk about your action plan and growth so far>.

    P.S. I hope this answer pleased you. And everyone.
    Last edit by Nurse Beth on May 31, '15 : Reason: add quote
  9. by   Nurse Beth
    Quote from LadyFree28
    I think I used that I communicate a lot, but used that I'm working on improving SBAR, and used my experience as a nursing supervisor to help with SBAR and how to effectively communicate with providers, peers, and anxious and disgruntled pts and family members.
    That is a great one! I'll have to remember that. Communication is a skill we all can work to improve,
  10. by   BoxingRN
    Quote from Nurse Beth
    I like it for an interview because it's common to many people (especially nurses?) and I can just see the interviewers nodding in agreement.

    It comes across as genuine and self-revealing enough to gain likeability. Once they like you, they pull for you.
    Actually, it's genius! Why didn't I think of this as an example for an article?

    <In an actual interview, you would then go on to talk about your action plan and growth so far>.

    P.S. I hope this answer pleased you. And everyone.
    Thank you so much!
  11. by   RiskManager
    I always said my greatest weakness was honesty.

    The interviewer would say 'I don't think honesty is a weakness'.

    I would reply 'I don't give a crap what you think'.
  12. by   mirandaaa
    This is a great post!

    This is the biggest question that I struggle with in an interview. I don't want to seem weak, but don't want to look like I think too highly of myself to not acknowledge a weakness, either.

    Usually when asked this I've said that I have issues with becoming too attached to residents (this was when I was working in LTC) and that it was often difficult for me when one passed on. Which isn't a lie, but I'm sure there are other, better things I could be weak in!
  13. by   Red Kryptonite
    This is why job interviews suck. They're the grown up version of kids pulling the wings off bugs.
  14. by   MinnesotaBeagle
    I'm having a hard time coming up with honest answers to this one. The truth is that I'm quiet and not much of a chit-chatter. I'm trying to think of how to spin that in a positive way, but in these days of patient satisfaction scores, I'm thinking no one wants to hire a someone like me. I've googled some answers I can give, but they'd be lies. Any ideas?

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