How to Answer the "What Is Your Greatest Strength and Weakness?” Interview Question

Updated: June 23, 2023

After digesting this article, readers will:

  1. Comprehend how to respond to the common interview questions about strengths and weaknesses, and understand the importance of honest self-assessment and demonstrating an ongoing commitment to improvement.
  2. Recognize the significance of tailoring responses to the specific job and industry, and learn how to effectively research and integrate relevant role-specific traits into their interview responses.
  3. Learn the value of providing concrete examples when discussing strengths and weaknesses, appreciating how these examples add credibility and allow for a more genuine and compelling narrative during the interview process.

Did you know that Thomas Edison discovered 1,800 ways not to build a light bulb before finding the right way? It’s true. Even though it’s hard, everyone fails, makes mistakes, and messes up. It’s okay! And yet when the interviewer says, “Tell me your greatest weakness,” most people are annoyed, terrified, or both.

Of course, there’s another side to this coin, and it’s sharing your strengths. This, too, inspires fear in many an interviewee. After all, aren’t you supposed to stay humble? No one wants to sound like they’re bragging during an interview.

To help you prepare for these two ever-popular interview questions, this article will explore how to answer both “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” Let’s get the weaknesses out of the way first.

How to answer “What are your weaknesses?”

Listen: It’s hard to admit to your weaknesses. But being able to do so, carefully, is key. First of all, don’t say that you don’t have any—that’s a huge weakness in itself. Also, don’t list a strength but try to make it sound negative. “I care too much” is a cliché by now, and it’s also a terrible answer.

Instead, demonstrate that you’re self-aware by mentioning an actual (but not debilitating) weakness. This part should be brief; you can do it in a single sentence. Then, move on to how you’re working to address and correct it. This second part should make up the bulk of your response. It shows that you’re self-aware and are always looking to improve yourself and your performance.

So, how do you choose a weakness? You want to point to a weakness that:

  1. Doesn’t diminish you in the eyes of the interviewer.
  2. Isn’t a huge deal or a true personal deficiency.
  3. Isn’t a key part of the job at hand. (If you’re applying to be a copy editor, don’t say, “I don’t pay attention to the details when I’m in a rush.”)
  4. You’re actively working to address.

Above all else, be honest. If you make something up, your interviewer will know.

Example answers

You have the building blocks for a strong response. Now, let’s look at some sample answers that show how everything comes together. Here’s an example for a non-managerial role:

I struggle when it comes to giving people negative feedback. I’m not a super confrontational person, and I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings—I want to be the one cheering them on and making them feel great! But over the course of my career, I’ve learned that sometimes, you need to give constructive feedback so that you can have more honest, efficient work relationships. I spoke to my last boss about this, and we did some role-playing together so I could build my skills is this area. I still think being positive is crucial to motivating people, so I deliver feedback with compassion—but I try to be straightforward, honest, and helpful, too.

The person clearly explains a weakness and discusses how they’re actively working to overcome it. The response is succinct (this isn’t a question where you want to go on and on!). Finally, they put a positive spin on the whole situation. One more, for an event-planning role:

I occasionally have a hard time asking for help. This sometimes works out, but it can be detrimental when I do need extra support in pulling off a big event or managing challenges beyond my control. Last year, I coordinated an event for one of our top clients. There were many small details and several setbacks along the way, but I was determined to handle it all on my own. The event was a success, but afterwards I realized how easily it could have gone wrong. I took the time to reflect, and I’ve been intentional in reminding myself to ask for help when it’s needed. My top priority is client satisfaction, and sometimes that means getting support, insight, or resources from others.

A sample response for a data analyst:

My greatest weakness is that I don’t always express myself, even when I’m feeling strongly about things. I’ve recognized this, though, and it’s something that I’m working actively to change. I’ve joined my local Toastmasters Society and have been actively participating. It’s helping me to feel comfortable saying what’s on my mind and expressing myself to others.

And a sample response for someone with no work experience:

I find that I don’t know enough about current events, so I’ve subscribed to newsletters and YouTube channels that focus on these issues. I also read relevant material online daily to help keep me up to date.

How to answer “What are your strengths?”

With your weaknesses out of the way, it’s time to focus on what makes you great. Sure, it sounds pretty easy, but a lot of people struggle with this question. It can be challenging to recognize your own best qualities, and it’s vital to respond with strengths that prove you’ll be a great fit for the job you’re interviewing for.

Just as you did when describing your weaknesses, focus on what you’re doing to sustain and build upon this strength. Nothing in life is static, after all.

To prepare, choose three relevant strengths (communication, creativity, enthusiasm, problem solving … the list goes on and on!) and support your claims about these strengths using the four A’s:

  1. Awards: Prizes you have won that emphasize your strengths.
  2. Accolades: Privileges or special honors you’ve gotten because of your strengths.
  3. Anecdotes: A story you can tell that demonstrates your strengths in action.
  4. Acknowledgments: Special recognition you have received thanks to your strengths.

Note: An achievement is not a strength; it’s evidence of a strength. Once the interviewer launches into any variation of the “What are your strengths?” question, outline the three strengths you’ve prepared. Then, immediately lend credibility to your response by using at least one of your four A’s. This way, you’re connecting the dots for the interviewer. Any candidate can list a few strengths that relate to the job description. By adding supporting evidence, you’ll stand out.

Choosing a strength

So, how do you choose the right strengths? You want to choose strengths that:

  1. Are directly related to the job for which you’re interviewing.
  2. Demonstrate your ability to settle into the job faster and perform better than other candidates.
  3. Can be directly supported with tangible evidence (see the four A’s above).

Choose strengths that you can illustrate using any (or all) of the four A’s. Take your industry into account and do your research to see what traits or skills are essential to success on the job. Base your answer around these key qualifications.

Example answers

You’ve figured out where your strengths lie and how to structure your response. The final step is reviewing some sample answers that bring everything together. Here’s a great example for a receptionist:

I’m a really good communicator. Whether it’s over the phone, in person, or over email, I can express myself clearly and concisely. In fact, I was awarded “Captain Communicator” at my most recent internship. I received several shout-outs from my manager for diffusing difficult situations with my strong communication skills, and I even got an acknowledgment in the company newsletter for being really good at talking to clients. I think this strength will help me do well on the job since being a receptionist requires interfacing with individuals from different backgrounds. I’ll be able to make each person feel welcome and that their business is valued.

And one for a graphic designer:

I have a strong work ethic. I’m committed to meeting deadlines and completing all tasks at a high standard. At my previous job, I worked with a client who was on a very tight schedule. Due to circumstances beyond my control, we received some of the information needed to complete the project just one day before the deadline. Instead of missing the deadline or delivering a rushed, poorly done final project, I volunteered to stay late and complete the task. I was regularly recognized for my dedication and my ability to work under pressure. Because of this positive reputation, clients began requesting to work with me specifically. I think my strong work ethic will help me manage multiple projects and keep all clients satisfied as a graphic designer at your agency.

Both of these answers provide a relevant strength, list supporting credentials, and connect the strength to the job in question. Also note the confidence of these responses. They don’t say, “I’m pretty good at …” or, “I think a strength might be …” Instead, they launch directly and confidently into an answer.

Tailoring Your Responses to the Job

While the general approach to answering questions about your strengths and weaknesses will be similar across different roles, tailoring your responses to the specific job you’re interviewing for can give you an edge over other candidates.

Research the role and the industry

Before you go into the interview, take some time to research the role and the industry you’re applying for. Look at the job description and pick out key skills or traits that are highlighted. What strengths would be most valuable in this role? What weaknesses would be most detrimental?

Understand the company culture

Companies often have unique cultures that value certain traits over others. If a company prides itself on innovation, for example, a strength in creative thinking or problem-solving might be particularly valuable. On the other hand, a weakness in conforming to established procedures might be seen as less problematic.

Use industry language

When you describe your strengths and weaknesses, use language that is common in the industry. This can help you demonstrate your familiarity with the field and can make your responses more compelling.

Speak to specific job duties

When possible, link your strengths and weaknesses to specific duties you’ll be expected to perform in the role. For example, if the job involves a lot of teamwork, you might talk about a strength in collaborative problem-solving or a weakness in wanting to take on too many tasks yourself.

Provide relevant examples

As always, provide concrete examples to illustrate your points. Choose examples from your past that are most relevant to the role and industry you’re applying for.

Remember, the goal is not to mold yourself to fit exactly what you think the company wants, but to present your authentic strengths and weaknesses in a way that is most relevant and compelling for the job at hand.

The Interviewer’s Perspective

When an interviewer asks about your strengths and weaknesses, they aren’t trying to trip you up or make you feel uncomfortable. Instead, they are looking to evaluate several key aspects of your character and professional capabilities:


By asking about your weaknesses, interviewers want to see that you’re capable of self-reflection and honest about areas where you could improve. It’s not about identifying a fatal flaw that will disqualify you, but rather about demonstrating your ability to recognize and confront challenges.

Growth mindset

Interviewers are interested in seeing whether you view weaknesses as opportunities for growth and development. They want to see that you’re proactive in identifying these areas and taking steps to improve. This signals to them that you’re likely to continue growing and improving in your role.


When asking about your strengths, interviewers are looking for skills or characteristics that are directly relevant to the role. They’re not just looking for a list of things you’re good at, but rather for concrete examples of how your strengths would help you excel in the role.

Evidence of strengths

Interviewers are also looking for concrete evidence that supports your claims about your strengths. Whether it’s an anecdote about how you used a particular strength in a past role or tangible recognition like an award, they want to see that you have a track record of using your strengths effectively.

Balancing humility and confidence

Both questions are a test of your ability to navigate the tricky balance between humility and confidence. While it’s important to be confident and speak positively about your strengths, it’s equally important to show humility by acknowledging that you have weaknesses and are committed to working on them.

By understanding the motivations behind these questions, you can tailor your responses to highlight the qualities that interviewers are most interested in seeing.

Weaknesses and strengths: In other words …

Finally, let’s look at other ways this question can be asked. In addition to, “What is your greatest weakness?” or “What is your greatest strength?” your interviewer might ask:

  • Tell me about your top three strengths and weaknesses.
  • Tell me about an area that you’re looking to develop.
  • What would your colleagues say is their favorite thing about you?
  • What’s a time when you failed? What’s a time when you succeeded?
  • What would your colleagues say is your biggest area for improvement?
  • Describe a challenging work situation. How did you overcome it?
  • On a scale of 1–10, how would your supervisor rate you on the following …
  • Why are you the best candidate for this role?
  • In your last review, what did your supervisor say ‘needs improvement’? How did you handle that?

As you can see, all of these questions can be answered using the methods we’ve discussed. Be ready with clear strengths and appropriate weaknesses, and then back up your answers with examples. If you’re well prepared, you’ll be sure to awe your interviewer.

And if you need to study a bit more, you can review other common interview questions, by field, here.