There are a lot of job interview questions that you have to be prepared for. This particular question tends to stump even the most experienced interviewee.
Many interview guides will tell you to answer the very common "What's your greatest weakness?" question with a positive trait disguised as a weakness. For example, "I tend to expect others to work as hard as I do," or "I'm a perfectionist."
That would be a mistake. Why? Because interviewers have heard these canned answers over and over again.
If you use one of them, it will likely backfire on you. They'll think:
So state a true weakness! No one is perfect, so don't try to convince anyone (especially yourself) that you don't have any weaknesses.
However, I cannot overemphasize the importance of not listing a key element of the position as a weakness! If you do that, you might as well send yourself the rejection letter.
Pick a neutral weakness about something that's not critical to the job. Mention that. Then emphasize what you've done to overcome the weakness.
This shows that you are honest, that you recognize areas in which you need to grow, and that you are actively seeking ways to improve yourself.
"I honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an outstanding job for you in THIS position. I will say that in the past, I've had some trouble delegating duties to others. I felt I could do things better and faster myself. This sometimes backfired because I'd end up with more than I could handle and the quality of my work would suffer. But I've taken courses in time management and effective delegation, and I've managed to overcome this weakness." [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for a supervisory position]
"I honestly can't think of any weakness that would prevent me from doing an outstanding job for you in THIS position. But I'm very weak in math and have to rely on a calculator. I always have one with me just in case a calculation is needed." [NOTE: You would not want to use this example for an accounting position or one that requires math skills!]
Here is a suggestion thanks to the New York Department of Labor:
Choose something that is not a major flaw or negative characteristic - you don't want to shock the interviewer or make them think you are not a good candidate for the job. Most importantly, don't just say something negative about yourself and leave it at that - turn it into a positive! Describe how you were able to overcome this weakness and a positive way the situation turned out. Show that you have grown as a person, and how that slightly negative characteristic is now a positive attribute that you can bring to this new position. Whenever possible, use specific situations from your previous job to illustrate your point.
Source: New York Department of Labor
This question really isn't so tricky, once you know what to expect and how to respond.
For even more information about job interview questions and how to answer them, consider the "Job Interview Success System."
One of the 5 key components of this system is a 31-page report entitled "How to Give Job-Winning Answers to Interview Questions." In addition to giving more tips and strategies on general answering techniques, it lists 45 of the easiest, toughest, silliest and most common job interview questions as well as how to respond to them.