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What Do You Need to Improve?

Job interviews are a unique platform where both job seekers and employers try to assess each other’s fit for a specific role. One common question during an interview is, “What do you need to improve?” At first glance, it might seem like a trick question designed to catch you off guard. However, with the proper preparation, you can answer confidently and leave a lasting impression.

Why do interviewers ask about your areas of improvement?

Interviewers ask this question for several reasons. Primarily, they want to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. In the professional world, everyone has areas they could enhance or skills they could develop further. By asking this question, interviewers are not necessarily searching for flawlessness but rather your ability to recognize where you could grow and how proactive you are about addressing those areas. It also gives them an insight into how you might fit into the company’s culture and where they might need to support you if you were to join the team.

What are interviewers looking for when asked about what you need to improve?

  • Self-awareness: Recognizing and admitting that you have areas to improve upon shows maturity and self-awareness. It is important that you can objectively evaluate yourself, which is crucial for personal and professional growth.
  • Proactiveness: Interviewers are interested in what you think you need to improve and what steps you’re taking to make those improvements. This demonstrates initiative and a commitment to continuous learning.
  • Relevance: While it’s essential to be honest, you should also consider the relevance of your answer to the job role. For instance, if you’re applying for a sales role, admitting you could be better with numbers might raise more concerns than admitting you need to work on your public speaking.

How to answer the interview question, “What do you need to improve?”

When formulating your answer, consider the following:

Take a storylike approach

Taking a storylike approach to the “What do you need to improve?” question in a job interview makes your response more relatable and memorable for interviewers, allowing them to see real-life examples rather than abstract concepts. Through a story, you can effectively demonstrate your self-awareness and the proactive steps you’ve taken to address challenges. Such narratives inherently provide context so the interviewer can better understand the circumstances and the resulting growth. Moreover, personal experiences, shared through stories, resonate more emotionally, fostering a deeper connection and understanding between the candidate and the interviewer. Lastly, framing the journey of improvement as a story portrays the candidate as someone who learns and evolves, a highly desirable trait in any potential employee.

Be genuine

Avoid cliches like “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” Instead, think of actual areas you’re working to improve upon. Sharing an authentic weakness demonstrates vulnerability, which can help establish trust. Acknowledging and owning your weaknesses is also a sign of resilience and a growth mindset. Remember, everyone has flaws. What sets you apart is your approach to addressing those areas of improvement. A genuine answer shows authenticity, which is a trait many employers value.

Here are common examples of areas needing improvement:

  • Time management skills
  • Juggling multiple tasks
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Professional development

Focus on the positive spin

While it’s a question about improvement, ensure your answer is framed positively. Emphasizing your active approach addresses the area of improvement and highlights your problem-solving skills. Additionally, by presenting challenges as learning experiences, you show potential employers your adaptability and eagerness to evolve. For example, instead of saying, “I struggle with time management,” you could say, “I’ve realized that I can sometimes get caught up in details, so I’ve been using task management tools and setting specific time limits to ensure I prioritize effectively.”

Provide actionable steps

After mentioning an area you’re looking to improve, follow up with steps you’re taking to address it. This proactive approach demonstrates self-awareness and a determination to evolve and better oneself. It assures interviewers that you’re recognizing challenges and actively seeking solutions. For example, if you’ve identified a need to enhance your technical skills, mention any courses or workshops you’ve enrolled in or any self-study initiatives you’ve undertaken.

How not to answer questions about your areas needing improvement

Answering the question about areas of improvement requires a delicate balance between honesty and strategic thinking. While you want to be genuine, avoiding pitfalls that might negatively influence the interviewer’s perception of you is crucial. Here’s a guide on how not to respond:

  • Avoid being overly negative: It’s one thing to acknowledge a weakness, but sharing an exhaustive list of every fault or giving an overly critical analysis of yourself is unnecessary and can leave a lasting negative impression. Your answer should be concise and focused.
  • Avoid irrelevant weaknesses: Mentioning weaknesses that have no bearing on the job can seem out of touch. For example, discussing your lack of baking skills will not provide valuable information to the interviewer if you’re seeking a data analyst position.
  • Don’t deny having any weaknesses: Claiming you have no areas for improvement can come across as arrogant or lacking self-awareness. No one is perfect, and employers are aware of that. They value candidates who can recognize and work on their weaknesses.
  • Avoid being defensive: It’s essential to remain calm and avoid getting defensive. Even if you feel the need to explain the context of a weakness, do so without sounding like you’re making excuses.

Sample answers to “What do you need to improve?”

Example answer #1

“In the early stages of my career, I realized that I often hesitated to delegate tasks, preferring to handle everything myself to ensure it met my standards. However, this wasn’t scalable as responsibilities increased and might not benefit team dynamics. To address this, I’ve taken leadership workshops emphasizing trust and delegation’s importance in team settings. I’ve also made a conscious effort to assign tasks based on team members’ strengths and provide them with the necessary autonomy. While I’ve seen significant improvements, I continue to work on striking the right balance between being hands-on and delegating.”

Example answer #2

“Public speaking has always been a challenge for me. Even though I’m comfortable sharing my ideas in smaller group settings or one-on-one, larger audiences used to make me quite nervous. Recognizing the importance of effective communication, especially as I aspire to take on more leadership roles, I enrolled in a public speaking course and joined a local Toastmasters club. These experiences have been invaluable in helping me practice and receive feedback. I’ve made strides in presenting to larger groups but still seek opportunities to practice and refine this skill further.”

Example answer #3

“Well, one area I sometimes struggle with is my communication skills. While I am competent in conveying my ideas, I recognize the importance of further refining these skills, especially in practicing active listening. I’ve noticed that truly understanding and absorbing what others are saying can significantly impact collaboration and problem-solving. To address this, I’ve been taking online workshops and courses focused on enhancing communication, and I’m actively working on being more present during conversations to ensure that I fully grasp the perspectives of others.”

Example answer #4

“In my past work experiences, I’ve encountered situations where projects falling behind schedule were challenging. I realized that while my technical skills were strong, I needed to bolster my time management skills, especially when I had to formally lead a team. Managing multiple tasks and ensuring everyone stayed on track was a learning curve for me. Recognizing this, I’ve been actively working on improving my ability to allocate time efficiently, prioritize tasks, and guide my team more effectively to ensure projects are completed on time.”

“What do you need to improve?” is not a question designed to trip you up but rather an opportunity to showcase your self-awareness, commitment to growth, and proactive nature. With preparation and authenticity, you can navigate this question confidently and improve your chances of getting that job offer!

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