Killer Interview Question: What Is Your Greatest Weakness That’s Not A Secret Strength?

Killer Interview Question: What Is Your Greatest Weakness That’s Not A Secret Strength?

“What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?” Most job applicants have encountered this interview question multiple times. They have subsequently become adept at dodging it completely. Usually, this is achieved by dressing up a positive attribute as a “weakness”. To force a more honest answer, try adding the above disclaimer.

To be perfectly honest, we find the “describe-your-weakness” line of questioning to be, well, weak. Even if the interviewee thinks they are giving an honest answer, their personal assessment will rarely line up with what other people think of them. It’s a question of dubious value that makes everyone in the room feel slightly awkward.

But if you absolutely must pursue this strategy, be sure to preemptively veto answers that are ‘secret strengths’. All too often, a job applicant will trot out a well-rehearsed answer that paints them in the best light possible. (You know the types of response we’re talking about — they work too hard, they love their job too much, they are considered a perfectionist, et cetera, et cetera.)

By asking “what is your biggest weakness that’s not a secret strength?”, you will be forcing them to abandon their stock response and dig deeper. This modified version of the question still isn’t perfect – but at least they will be describing a genuine weakness instead of a diamond in the rough.

How would you answer this question? Let us know in the comments.


  • I’ve not encountered this version, but when faced with the “greatest weakness” question I push it a bit (this is my test to see if the employer can tolerate people who don’t toe the line all the time).

    “You want me to state my weakness? That wouldn’t be in my interest would it? I could trot out a cliche about how I’m a perfectionist, but you’ve heard those all before. I’m here to talk about my talents and strengths and how I can bring them to bear on this company’s challenges”.

    On all but one occasion they’ve been a little surprised but we’ve moved on (and I’ve had job offers from some of them). On one occasion the guy was really cross and insisted I answer his question. I declined and we wrapped it up right there – I consider that a successful screen of a potential bad employer. I’m not interested in working somewhere where employees are considered serfs who bow and scrape and jump when told to jump.

    I did get one interviewer who actually gave a a good reason for asking that question – he didn’t want to take on anyone who had never considered their weaknesses before – but he agreed when I said that everyone knows the cliche answers so the question won’t actually elicit what he was looking for.

    • I wouldn’t hire you based on your answer. You sound like a smug little shit to be honest. It’s up to you to answer each of their questions in a way they haven’t heard before, though that doesn’t include ‘no I won’t answer that one!’. They’ve heard perfectionist many times before? Either give them one they haven’t heard, or give them your honest answer about a weakness and give an honest response rather than a super-rehearsed line you’ve read on the internet.

  • Supermans weakness is basically an allergy, so if you have an allergy, you got an easy out.
    If I am forced to divulge a weakness, my cooking skill.

    If I ever get the Weakness question in an interview, I answer it, and then throw back at them either there or later. “What do you think is the business units/teams greatest weakness in managing its roles / customers ?” whatever answer they give, I try to spin it into a strength I have and can deliver.

  • My borderline Asperger’s personality means I have a low tolerance for what I consider “bullshit” questions.

  • It’s such a BS question. Instead the question should be ‘Tell me about a time that your work project failed.’

    This will tell you if the interviewee can accept blame, deconstruct competing factors and learn.

  • Great comments. Truly it is a crap question asked by amateur psychologists who wouldn’t know what to do with the answer. Behavioural questions are far better for a conversation, as Zenu’s suggestion. But my greatest weakness? Trouble with lip-synch.

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