SDS 192: Ace the "Greatest Weakness" Interview Question

SDS 192: Ace the “Greatest Weakness” Interview Question

Your Greatest Weakness

For sure, you’ve heard, read or watched these common plots: vampires disintegrates when there’s direct sunlight, Superman weakens at the presence of Kryptonite, and Achilles got killed because of an arrow wound to his heel. Everyone has their weaknesses, fictional or not! 

So, in today’s FiveMinuteFriday episode, discover how owning your weakness and knowing how to overcome it could help you in your interviews and career. I will give tips and examples so make sure to tune in!

If you’re preparing for an upcoming interview, I bet you already googled all the possible questions that could be asked. And from the list, I bet again that the most dreaded question that you’ll encounter would be “What is your greatest weakness?” So, how do you prepare for a question like this? Do you say what’s ‘really’ in your mind or do you say what you think they want to hear?

One thing’s for sure, it’s a question that leaves a mark on the recruiter’s mind. I remembered from last week while we were looking for AI researchers and PhD holders from fields of data science, AI, machine learning, etc., during the interview process, the question came up, and I was surprised with how the aspirants answer. These are people who fill their resumes with great accomplishments and have collaborated with many experts in the field. But when they answered, they were doing the common mistake: turning the negative into positive. Or if not, they go for the safe answer. Or even worst, they claim that they don’t have any weakness. For me, these aren’t the best way to tackle the question.

I’ll let you in for a secret. Recruiters can see through you if you’re trying to be desirable in front of them. There’s nothing wrong with that. During interviews, everyone just wants to be the best version of ourselves – we dress better and we talk better. this question is just the recruiter trying to go through the barriers – trying to know who you really are, how human you are, and what sets you apart from the other candidates, aside from what you’re showing during that moment.

So, to ace the difficult question, first things first, acknowledge that aside from strengths, you have weaknesses. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s part of being a human. Be introspective on how you behave, respond, or decide on stuff. Knowing these shortcomings could help you improve yourself.  Say the weakness and the plan you have in combating it. Answer in a way that they won’t doubt the value you could add to your business.

I know it doesn’t sound easy but knowing and admitting your weakness could go a long way. Listen in because I gave a couple of examples that could assist you.


  • If you will be asked “What is your greatest weakness?”, how will you answer?
  • Download The Transcript
  • Music Credit: Cloud 9 by Itro & Tobu [NCS Release]


Full Podcast Transcript

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This is Five Minute Friday, episode number 192. Your Greatest Weakness. Welcome back to the SuperDataScience podcast ladies and gentlemen. Very excited to have you on the show. And today, you will find some interesting tips if you are looking to undergo an interview in the near future. However, we'll start off with a story. And this story's about something that happened just a week ago or so, when during an interview that I was conducting ... And so the background is that for one of our projects, [inaudible 00:00:36] and I are hiring a team or are assembling a team of AI researchers and PhD's in the space, so PhD's in artificial intelligence or Masters in machine learning, deep learning, and all those types of technologies in those areas.
And during one of the interviews I was conducting, I asked this one young gentleman, who we actually ended up accepting into the team, I asked him this question. "You have a lot of great accomplishments. You have a PhD in the space of artificial intelligence, so you know a lot about convolutional neural networks. You've worked with some of the most famous people in this space, we're talking about some people in Canada. Not gonna name any names, but those in the space of artificial intelligence all that in the neuroscience of Montreal, there are some very well-known artificial intelligence research.
So that's where I'm kind of like saying, Jim that, you've got all these accomplishments, but how do you think you will add value to our team, to our project, to what we're doing?" And he said a very interesting thing. He said that, "Well, I get bored very easily." That's exactly and that's a direct quote. He said, "I get bored very easily." And that kind of like threw me off a little bit. I was not expecting that answer and then I asked him to elaborate. And he's like, "Well, I get bored very easily, that means I'm not going to sit on one place. I'm not going to just accept the status quo I'm going to be very curious. I'm going to dive into things. I'm going to try new ways. I'm going to always challenge the existing methodologies and algorithms and always implement new things and that's what you want on this team. You want people who are going to be creative, are going to come up with new solutions and ideas. And because I get bored so easily, that means I'm going to deliver that."
And that was a really cool answer. Really, really loved it and that's also for the purpose of this episode reminded me of a typical a question when you are asked about your greatest weakness. What is your greatest weakness as a normal question at an interview it's kind of like a behavioral question. And so the answer that I just described is not a good answer for that question. So when you're asked about your greatest weakness sometimes people would normally say something like that, "I get bored very easily. Or I work too hard or I pay too much attention to detail." They kind of they want to make a negative into a positive. That's very old school and recruiters and hiring managers are already all over that they know about this method and in my opinion, this is not career advice, for you to ... Something for you to consider.
This is my opinion, but my opinion, I don't think that's the best way to answer it. So quit. Answers like that are good to throw in during the conversation. Just randomly, like the guy did in this conversation. I didn't ask him about his greatest weakness, but he told me that he gets bored very easily and then he turned that negative into a positive. So he elaborated on it during the conversation. I was not asking him about his greatest weakness. So all those things like you pay too much attention to detail or ... I wouldn't actually say I work too hard, but nevertheless, like those types of answers or those types of comments, they're good during the conversation not when you're asked about your greatest weakness. When you are asked about your greatest weakness. I found a really interesting article. We'll link to it in the show notes. So I'll give you some tips and I agree with these tips. So I'm happy to share them about how to go about this situation and actually several articles talk about this.
The main idea of what to talk about in your weakness is, just always keep in mind that everybody has weaknesses and the reason why they asking this question is they want to see that you are human and that you acknowledge that you're human, that you are not trying to, like when you come to an interview, of course you are trying to sell yourself a bit better than you are than you would normally. You dress better than your average day. You maybe talk more eloquently than on your average day. So you're trying to make a good first impression. So here they're trying to go through those barriers and actually see who you are and your best barrier is to actually let the interviewer see who you are and tell them about a weakness that you truly have. And but in saying that, don't just leave it there, say what the weakness is and then tell them how you're going to actually address that weakness, tell them what kind of plan you have for combating that weakness or how you're already working on it to grow further.
So here are a couple of examples. For instance, delegation skills. You could say that delegation skills are an area that you could work on and that you're not very adept at them. And that's something that you want to improve, especially like this answer would work if you're applying for a junior role where you don't have to be a manager and that kind of works and that's something you want improve in. Then you could give them examples of how you already improved that. Another one, another example is, for instance, public speaking that maybe you're naturally shy and you're working on improving that so that you're going to be better at public speaking and communicating your results. Another example might be that you provide feedback. You're very upfront with your feedback and sometimes people might take it personally and so you're working on softening that approach and becoming a bit softer and more well-rounded in those types of areas.
So in essence, the formula for your greatest weakness is not the old formula of taking a weakness, a negative and turn into a positive. The formula is take an actual weakness, but also show them how you are working on it and how you're planning on working it. So it's okay to be vulnerable. And going back to what we started with the formula of taking a negative and turn it in a positive that still works, but through, in conversation. If you just bring it up, just like when they're not expecting it and it's something that is relevant in the moment. That could be really cool.
That's how it worked in this case where the guy said that I get bored very easily and it really worked in his favor of how he described it after that. So there you go. Hope that was helpful. And if you have an interview coming up, then good luck. Best of luck at the interview. Hope you smash it out and get the job. If you don't, don't worry there's plenty of jobs out there. And it's always a learning experience as one of our guests recently said, [Gabriela 00:07:26] there is no failure only feedback. On that note, I'll look forward to seeing you back here next time. Until then, happy analyzing.

Kirill Eremenko
Kirill Eremenko

I’m a Data Scientist and Entrepreneur. I also teach Data Science Online and host the SDS podcast where I interview some of the most inspiring Data Scientists from all around the world. I am passionate about bringing Data Science and Analytics to the world!

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