How to Answer that Pesky ‘Greatest Weakness’ Question

Career Blog

Published: April 1, 2019 by Greta Snyder

As I mentioned previously, I signed up for a free “5-Day Interview Bootcamp” through Big Interview. Day 2 focuses on a tricky question that comes up in most interviews: “What is your greatest weakness?” Is it okay to respond with “interviewing?” Luckily Big Interview once again comes to the rescue with an excellent strategy for nailing this question.

Per Big Interview, the best answer demonstrates self-awareness, transparency and work ethic by identifying a workplace-relevant weakness and then outlining steps you are already taking to work on it and how these steps have helped you improve.

Applying this approach specifically to our profession, being resilient and leading change strategies for change on a personal and organizational level is a 21st century competency. Change management is such a critical skill for librarians and librarian leaders in the constantly evolving world. As Bell (2018) describes, “in a constant change environment, leaders need to do more than manage change, they need to create a change-ready culture.” Change-readiness should thus be a skill, ethos, and lifestyle that can be demonstrated through how we answer this question of weakness.

Therefore, when asked about our weaknesses in interviews, we can think about how important it is to articulate an opportunity and a change strategy. Being perceptive and visionary in terms of how you can personally change and evolve, and how this will positively impact co-workers, administrators, stakeholders, and patrons/users/clients, highlights your potential.

So, now that our personal vision is aligned with our profession, let’s get back to the practical details. Please tell me, Big Interview, how do I “choose” a good weakness? By selecting a weakness that is authentic, relevant to the job at hand, and is relatively minor and fixable, I can’t go wrong. For example, for a job role that might involve attending larger group meetings, I could point out that, “I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups,” rather than “I am very shy and often have trouble speaking up in meetings.” Big Interview emphasizes that you should Identify the weakness in a concise, objective way, not as a complex personal failure with a deep-rooted cause:  you are in the interview hot-seat, not on your therapist’s couch.

The steps are essentially:

  • Acknowledge a job-related weakness objectively.
  • Align with how this might have a negative impact on others in the workplace.
  • Assure that you have taken steps to work on this weakness.

Big Interview provides a number of simple examples, but here is my favorite:

 “Sometimes I can be a bit too honest when I provide feedback to coworkers. My personality is naturally very straightforward and to the point, and most of my colleagues really value that, but I have learned that there are times on the job when more diplomacy is required. I took a training class on conflict management and it really opened my eyes to the need to communicate differently with different people. So now I am much better at providing constructive feedback, even if it doesn’t always come naturally.”

Big Interview again also provides free video content to further illustrate this process. Please check out:

Another Sample answer – 1 minute

Overview of the process  - 8 minutes

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