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

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. Here's one question that trips up a lot of candidates, but is one you can nail if you are prepared. Nurses Career Support Knowledge

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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."

Reheorifice Your Answer

Reheorifice 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!

Related articles:

How to Prepare for Your Inteview

How To Answer The Most Common Nursing Interview Questions

Why You Need an Elevator Speech

Uncensored Thoughts of a Nurse Interviewer

Job Interview: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Career Columnist / Author

Hi! Nice to meet you! I especially love helping new nurses. I am currently a nurse writer with a background in Staff Development, Telemetry and ICU.

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Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

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!)

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

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.

Specializes in Nursing Management.

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.

Specializes in Nurse Leader specializing in Labor & Delivery.

I think that's good! That's actually something I'm working on right now as well.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma.

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.

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.
Quote
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? ?

P.S. I hope this answer pleased you. And everyone. ;)

Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.
LadyFree28 said:
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,

Specializes in Nursing Management.
Nurse Beth said:
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? ?

P.S. I hope this answer pleased you. And everyone. ;)

Thank you so much!

Specializes in Healthcare risk management and liability.

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'.

Specializes in PCT, RN.

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!

Specializes in hospice.

This is why job interviews suck. They're the grown up version of kids pulling the wings off bugs.