What are you most afraid of?

  | James Innes

What are you most afraid of?

Alternative and related questions:

What is your greatest fear?
What keeps you up at night?

The meaning behind the question:

An inherently negative question which really puts you on the spot because, as the interviewer well knows, it's hard for you to wriggle out of.  Along the lines of "What are your weaknesses?" this is a very probing question which might just dig up some very useful information for the interviewer.

Your answer:

Sounds like just the sort of thing a psychiatrist might say, doesn't it!  But, no, it's coming from the mouth of an interviewer – so just be sure not to answer as if it was a psychiatrist asking it!

What could you be most afraid of?  Failure, cockroaches, using the telephone?!  While katsaridaphobia and telephonophobia are not suitable answers, atychiphobia might possibly be, although I'd be very wary of baffling the interviewer with words most people have never heard of!  In any case, fear of failure might make you sound like an insecure perfectionist or, worse, a defeatist.

Really, the best way to answer this question is to tell the interviewer that there's nothing in particular that you're afraid of or, assuming the interviewer hasn't phrased the question in such a way that it only applies to a work context, you can tell them about a natural, universal human fear, such as the fear of something bad happening to your family or friends, like serious ill health.

If the interviewer continues to press for an answer – which they're only likely to do if they're asking this question in a work context – then try to pick something which isn't too related to your job and try to downplay it as best as you can, subtly weaving into your answer ways in which you combat your fear.


There's really nothing that I'm particularly afraid of.  Like most people, I do get somewhat nervous about having to give presentations, probably because it's not something I have to do very often and I've had no formal training in giving presentations.  But I'm pretty good at controlling my nerves and focussing on the task in hand and my presentations are normally very well received.  I try to bear in mind that you will always feel more nervous than you actually look – and that helps me to feel a lot calmer.  I also work hard to prepare very thoroughly for presentations.  That really helps to boost my confidence.

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