How to answer this tricky job interview question, according to a hiring expert

Have you ever struggled to answer the “What is your biggest weakness?” question in a job interview? Well, we’ve spoken to hiring expert Khyati Sundaram to get the lowdown on the best way to respond.

During a job interview, there are a lot of thoughts that can run through your mind.

From anticipating each question to watching the clock in the hope that the interview ends soon, it can all be overwhelming as we put ourselves out there in the hopes of securing the job we desire.

While preparation is key when it comes to a job interview, there are certain questions we always see coming but can still struggle to answer – and the classic “What is your biggest weakness?” is one of them.

Luckily for you, we spoke to hiring expert Khyati Sundaram to get the lowdown on the best way to respond to the infamous question so we can all feel a bit more confident when we head into our next job interview.

What is the best way to respond to the ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ question in a job interview?

“If you are asked ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ in a job interview, it’s important to consider your answer in relation to the specific role you’re applying for,” says Sundaram.

“Concentrate on a professional ‘weakness’ rather than irrelevant personality quirks, and make sure that you’ve read the job description carefully to avoid naming anything that would actually hinder your ability to perform the role. But don’t simply name the ‘weakness’ and leave it at that.”

Sundaram suggests that candidates frame their ‘weakness’ as an area in which they can see an opportunity to learn, develop and improve. 

“Maybe you want to improve your SEO skills and you’re taking a course as a result of wanting to be knowledgeable in that particular area. Or your knowledge in a particular subject is weak so you’re subscribing to a newsletter to improve specific subject knowledge. This way you can highlight to hiring teams how proactive and growth-focused you are above anything else.”

Why do employers ask candidates what their biggest weakness is?

“The all-too-common ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ question is essentially a ‘vibe check’,” says Sundaram. “It’s a way for interview panels to get a sense of a candidate’s personality and to assess whether or not they’ll fit the existing company culture based on this.

“The problem is that company culture tends to reflect the current make-up of the business, so hiring candidates based on ‘culture-fit’ risks perpetuating homogeneity,” she warns. “Plus, candidates’ personalities are a poor marker of success.”

While it’s still a common question, Sundaram argues that it’s one employers are beginning to leave behind.

“Ethical, inclusive employers avoid ‘culture-fit’ questions like ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ Instead, they focus on testing for ‘role fit’ by asking candidates questions focused on whether or not they have the skills needed for specific roles. ‘Vibe checks’ have no place in fair hiring processes.”

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