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How Do You Handle Constructive Criticism?

Receiving constructive criticism is not only a routine part of work life, but it’s also a beneficial step in advancing your career–that is, if you can handle criticism effectively. Here’s how to tackle the interview question, “How do you handle criticism?”

Why do interviewers ask how you handle criticism?

Giving feedback is a necessity for managers to run high-performing teams. Thus, they need employees who can take that feedback gracefully and follow the provided instructions. An interviewer wants to find out whether you’ll be able to accept constructive criticism and use it in a productive way, rather than arguing with it, taking it personally, or lashing out. 

Interviewers also ask about this topic to learn more about your preferences for being managed, like your communication style and the best way to give you direction. These factors will determine whether you’re a good fit on the team and will help your potential future boss coach you most effectively.

What hiring managers want to hear

An interviewer wants to hear that you’re open to receiving feedback. Managers prefer adaptable employees, so they need to feel confident that you’re someone who can take direction and make changes accordingly. 
They also want to hear what you do with criticism when you receive it. It’s one thing to listen patiently, but another thing to actually make meaningful changes to improve your performance. An interviewer seeks an answer reflecting that you’ll do both things well.

How to answer, “How do you handle constructive criticism?”

Express that you’re open to it

In your answer, you want to clarify that you understand that receiving feedback is good. Speak about constructive criticism in a positive tone, communicating that you welcome it as an opportunity to improve at your job and achieve better results for the company.

Explain how you respond to it

Next, tell the interviewer what you do after receiving feedback. Breaking it down into steps and giving play-by-play works well–i.e., “After receiving feedback, first I… Then, I…”

Give an example

Bring your words to life by sharing a situation where you took constructive criticism and used it to adjust your approach positively. Explain the tangible results, like higher sales numbers, a happy customer, smoother vendor interactions, etc.

How not to answer

Hesitate when answering

You don’t want it to seem like this is a difficult question to answer. It should come across easily that you’re coachable. So, be sure to prepare your answer to this potential interview question beforehand.

Suggest that you struggle with feedback

No one likes being criticized, but you don’t want any part of your answer to suggest that you view work-related feedback in a negative way. Focus on positive experiences you’ve had with constructive criticism rather than describing a time when you struggled to accept feedback.

Sample answers to “How do you handle constructive criticism?”

Example #1

“I prefer regular feedback on my work, so I welcome constructive criticism. I view it as a chance to check in with my manager and ensure my performance meets their expectations. 

And it’s not always managers who provide helpful criticism. Once, at a trade show, an attendee commented that our booth was boring. Some people might have been offended, but I tried to look at it from his point of view. He was right–our booth was kind of boring compared to the others. For the next show, we came prepared with additional signage and more interactive displays, and we definitely saw a difference in the amount of traffic we received.”

Example #2

“I see constructive criticism as a chance to improve my job. When I receive this kind of feedback, first, I take a moment to let the information sink in. Then, since I’m a list person, I turn the feedback into a sort of to-do list for the changes I need to make. I tackle one item at a time, addressing each part of my manager’s feedback while visually seeing the improvements I’ve made. Not only does this make me better at my job, but it helps me stay motivated.”

Use your answer to make a larger statement about the type of employee you are: level-headed, easy to communicate with, and who can adapt when change is required–all qualities that will boost your positive impression on an interviewer.