Good Negative Qualities to Say During an Interview

While your main focus in an interview is to impress the hiring manager with your most stellar professional attributes, there’s always that one dreaded question: What are your weaknesses? It can be counter-intuitive to put yourself down or to admit to personal failings, but the question’s negative connotation doesn’t require an outright negative response. Instead, a creative approach to admitting human shortcomings can position you as an honest and forthright candidate.

What Are Your Negative Qualities?

We all have things we simply don’t like, don’t do well, or prefer to pass off to others. Take personal stock of yourself on both a personal and professional level and be honest about how you see yourself, or even how others perceive you, in terms of less-than-perfect qualities. For example:

  • Tardiness
  • Short temper
  • Lack of organization
  • Perfectionism
  • Stubbornness
  • Messiness
  • Poor time management
  • Bossiness
  • Self-doubt

Once you can admit what your personal shortcomings are – no matter how great or small – you can develop a strategy for admitting them in a way that actually benefits you.


By all means, avoid the cheesy and unprofessional response of, “I just work too hard” or, “I demand perfection of myself and everyone around me.” You won’t appear sincere, and chances are good the interviewer has heard these tired lines many times before.

What They’re Looking For

In crafting your response, it’s important to understand why a hiring manager asks this question. The answer is multi-faceted.

  1. The hiring manager wants to see if you recognize and are willing to admit your frailties. A person who refuses to admit they have any areas of their professional lives to improve upon isn’t a candidate who is willing to take direction or grow.
  2. The interviewer wants to see how you handle a tough-to-answer question that forces you to examine areas you know need work. Ideally, you can explain your “weaknesses” or “negatives” in a way that assures them you know about and are continually working to improve in key areas.
  3. The hiring staff truly does want to know what you see as your own red flags.  If you answer this question with an alarming, “I really hate cranky customers,” or, “I can’t stand working with anyone under 50,” you’re demonstrating two things: you may have some personality traits that are incompatible in a young, customer-focused organization, and more importantly, you don’t appear capable of using good judgment in a professional setting.

Good Responses to the “Negative” Question

So how do you answer this tricky question? Honestly, but with an upswing.


I do struggle with time management on occasion, but I combat it by faithfully using electronic alarms, a detailed calendar and by always building in an extra 30 minutes of “makeup” time at the end of each day.

When I work in a team environment, I tend to want to jump in and take charge, but I am learning that a collective approach is almost always the most successful route to take. If it’s a project that’s in my personal area of expertise, I’ll offer that up at the beginning, and trust that if I’m asked to lead the effort, it will be because the group as a whole thinks I’m best suited for the role.

I’ve been known to stress out around deadlines, but I’m combating it by setting reasonable deadlines rather than ones that are so ambitious they’re impossible.

I’m a very outgoing person, and I know I can sometimes rub people the wrong way by being overly-friendly. I’m never unprofessional, of course, but it's one of the reasons I think I’m so successful in roles where I work one-on-one with customers.

The key to discussing negative qualities in an interview is to always counter your response with an acknowledgment of what you do to make up for whatever the “deficit” is you’re discussing.