A professional weakness is an employee talent, ability, habit or knowledge area that requires improvement. It is common for employers to document weaknesses as "areas for improvement." It is also common for employees to be asked to state or document their own weaknesses in job interviews or as part of a performance management process. In this case, it is not in the employee's best interests to document any serious shortfalls but rather focus on abilities beyond the requirements of their role. The following are commonly used as professional weaknesses.
Avoiding action items
Building relationships & trust
Documentation & record-keeping
Following policies & processes
Handling difficult customers
Inattention to detail
Lack of assertiveness
Lack of ownership
Lack of initiative
Managing remote work
Quality of analysis
Public SpeakingFear of public speaking or a general lack of experience in front of a crowd.
PresentationsCommunicating information in smaller settings such as a meeting.
Workload ManagementTaking on too much. For example, being pushed by a vocal stakeholder to take on commitments that are essentially impossible to achieve.
PrioritizationMistakes of prioritization such as perfectionism whereby you spend too long improving something.
Stakeholder ManagementFailing to manage commitments or the expectations of your stakeholders.
Technical SkillsA technical skill that you're trying to improve such as scripting.
Hard SkillsHard skills are anything that are easy to validate with a standard test. For example, accounting knowledge. These are excellent weaknesses if you want to communicate a desire for education, training and self-learning.
Know-howSpecific knowledge that you need to develop. For example, an elevator technician who doesn't know how to repair a particular brand or model.
Industry KnowledgeEntering a new industry where you have little experience. For example, a telecom professional who transitions to banking.
LanguageLanguage skills such as a second language that is required for a role.
People SkillsPeople skills such as maintaining a friendly demeanor towards customers.
LeadershipLeadership challenges such as defeating resistance to change.
ManagementInexperience with management or some shortfall regarding the direction and control of teams.
Project ManagementPlanning and controlling projects. For example, a software developer who wants to communicate to an employer that they aren't capable nor interested in project management.
OrganizationSome organization skill or habit that you're trying to improve such as taking detailed meeting minutes.
ProcessesBeing too strict and rigid with respect to internal controls. The opposite weakness would be ignoring important controls and applying ad hoc processes where formal processes are better.
Knowledge ManagementKnowledge management issues such as a failure to capture useful documentation.
CompetitionBeing overly competitive or not competitive enough. For example, a salesperson who allows a peer to take over in meetings.
InfluencingInfluencing such as communicating your wins and value to management.
CommunicationCommunication issues such as being too direct or not direct enough.
Difficult ConversationsDifficult conversations such as a manager who has trouble talking to an employee about their poor personal hygiene.
Emotional IntelligencePerceiving the emotions of others and behaving accordingly. For example, a manager who fails to see how strongly an employee feels about something.
Customer ServiceCustomer service challenges such as dealing with difficult customers.
ProductivityProductivity issues such as problems managing meetings to be brief and useful.
Work QualityThe quality of your deliverables. For example, a software developer who tends to deliver buggy code.
AdaptabilityA tendency to resist change or a failure to adapt to change. For example, a software developer who wants to use their favorite old technology for everything who resists new approaches.
Risk TakingToo much or too little risk taking. For example, a team manager who fails to produce brave initiatives but seeks only safety and comfort for their team.
Tolerance for DisagreementAn inability to engage in debate and creative tension without becoming overly emotional.
Personal ResilienceProblems dealing with stress and failure such as taking criticism too personally.
TypesThe following are common types of professional weakness.
Answering "What is your greatest weakness?"When asked for your greatest professional weakness, it is advisable to avoid highlighting debilitating weaknesses while showing self-awareness and a drive to self-improve.
NotesA common approach to this question, is to point out some obvious shortfall. For example, if you are applying for a role that requires fluent German language but your German is weak.Employers ask this question because they are looking for employees who are self-improving such that they identify and address their own weaknesses. As such, pointing out a weakness that is really a strength such as being "detail-oriented" may feel inauthentic and could indicate that you don't see your own faults. It isn't typically in your best interests to state serious faults or any fault where you can't explain how you're improving.Next: Professional Strengths
This is the complete list of articles we have written about professionalism.
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A comprehensive guide to performance management.
Examples of realistic and measurable goals.
A list of common employee strengths.
A list of common employee weaknesses.
A list of common key strengths.
The definition of incompetence with examples.
A list of common types of work accomplishments with examples.
An overview of areas for improvement with specific examples.
An overview of performance reviews with examples and templates.
The common types of job interview with examples.
How to answer questions about your weaknesses in a way that communicates strengths.
A list of professional strengths for interview answers.
A list of common professional weaknesses that can be used to answer interview questions related to your weaknesses.
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A list of common professional skills including hard skills and soft skills.
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