Job interview questions that ask you about ‘areas of improvement’ are very much like the ‘biggest weakness question‘. They essentially serve 3 important functions:
- They test your honesty and identify what level of self awareness you possess
- They highlight the areas you need to work on so the company can work out a personal development path for you
- They help eliminate the candidates who do not have the core skills and attributes required in the role
You need to answer this question carefully because you can easily be discounted for the role depending on your answer. Let’ s start with the things you should never say.
Never Mention These:
- Perfectionism – Telling an interviewer that you don’t have any areas to improve on, you do your job perfectly is a quick way to get yourself eliminated. At best you come across as confident and arrogant, at worse you look like you are so self absorbed you can’t see or accept that there are things you could do better.
- Serious Personality Flaws – Telling an interviewer you have aggression management issues or have trouble concentrating for longer than 5 minutes at a time is not going to help you at all. If you been given this kind of feedback, find ways to address the behavior yourself but don’t mention it in an interview.
- Role Related Deficiencies – Never mention any development area that highlights the fact that you do not have the knowledge or skills to fulfill the role. For example, if you are applying for a sales role you should never mention you have trouble networking and feel awkward talking to new people.
Acceptable Areas of Improvement:
For senior roles or any managerial role stay away from areas like leadership, delegation, and communication. Think about something like presentation skills. You can say something like – Even though I have made many presentations over the years I still feel nervous before I present. I would like to work on this as well as developing ways to engage my audience during key presentations. This kind of thing is perfectly acceptable as most people feel nervous before they present to an audience. It is also not critical to most senior roles and can be easily addressed through external courses and continued practice. Follow it up with what you are doing to address the issue.
Middle Management Roles
For middle management roles stay away from areas like leadership, teamwork and communication. Even though you are still learning about leadership, it will not look good for you if you highlight it as a development need. Instead try something like networking. You can say something like – I am currently building my networking skills but still find it awkward at times to approach people face to face. Follow it up with something like – I have developed a strong network online using LinkedIn and also attend many industry functions and events where Ipracticee approaching others in my field. I feel I have made a lot of progress in this area but would still like to work on it until I feel I can approach new people with ease.
Junior or Entry Level Roles
As a junior or entry level employee, there are many key areas you are expected to develop. Chose something that shows you have your eye on the future like delegation skills. You could say something like – In my current role I do not have any direct reports as yet so it is difficult for me to learn how to delegate effectively. Follow it up with something like – I watch other managers delegate work and think about how I could apply these skills myself. I have been able to apply these learnings at times during project teams meetings where I have assigned different tasks to team members and then followed them up at regular intervals from there. It is a skill I would like to continue developing as I move into a more senior role.
Tips & Tricks:
Control your body language
If you look nervous and fidgety it looks like you are either being dishonest with your answer or you are hiding a huge flaw you don’t want them to see.
Confident not defensive
A person who can admit to having flaws or having an area of improvement is the sort of person others want to work with. The confidence helps convince employers that the improvement area will be dealt with without too much trouble.
Follow up every time
Never state a development need without immediately following up with what you are doing to address it. It shows you are not just dumping the problem on the employer to fix, you are dealing with it yourself. It’s perfectly ok that the area is a work in progress.