One of the most-hated, hardest-to-answer questions in a job interview is “What is your biggest weakness?” You might be sailing along up to that point, explaining how your employment history suits you for the job and how much you respect the company. But explaining a weakness without shooting yourself in the foot takes a distinct strategy.

First things first, you have to understand that the question isn’t quite what it seems.

Sure, the interviewers would like to know what your weaknesses are, but they know that applicants aren’t forthcoming about major character flaws. Instead, they want to hear you talk about yourself differently. 

You can think of it as a test of how dynamic your thinking is. In the middle of singing your own praises, you have to switch and talk about a shortcoming. Moreover, you have to do so without sounding like a terrible employee.

The interviewers want to hear you talk about growth and real deficiencies.

Some interviewees may try to beat the question by disguising a strength. “I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist” are typical responses in this vein. These humblebrag answers have been around as long as the question itself. Beware of them.

A Harvard Business School study showed that humblebragging makes peoples seem insincere. Besides that, interviewers aren’t testing your ability to dodge the question. By doing so, you’d be showing a lack of awareness.

The best way to answer the question is to talk about a real weakness that led to an actual failure or problem in a past job. This sounds simple, but there’s an art to it.

The trick is to talk about how you addressed your weakness and fixed whatever problems resulted from it. You can add that you are still working on the flaw, but you are improving because you are aware of the issue now

The question forces interviewees to talk about a difficult subject without spiraling into a pit of despair.

If the question throws you off, you could reveal all sorts of qualities that don’t come out during the more straightforward questions. That’s why it’s best to figure out an answer to this question ahead of time and avoid wandering into dangerous territory.

A Psychology Today article suggests being honest about a weakness, but with one caveat. Make sure that what you perceive as a minor weakness wouldn’t be a major problem for the specific job.

For instance, “I can be late from time to time,” is not a good answer if your job includes opening a store in the morning. Likewise, “I get frustrated with negative people,” is an understandable flaw, but it’s not a good one to mention if your potential job is in customer service.

Try to use the question to show your honesty and self-awareness.

You’ll distinguish yourself from the pack if you can honestly share a fault without becoming less likable. Doing that takes a little strategy and preparation, but it’ll help you stand out and get the job.