Interview Questions

Comprehensive Interview Guide: 60+ Professions Explored in Detail

Read More

How To Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?”

By Biron Clark

Published:

Interviewers are asking “What do you need to improve?” or “What areas need improvement?” more often in interviews.

These questions are similar to “What’s your greatest weakness?” but a little more open-ended (which means you can really run into trouble if you don’t know how to answer properly). 

I’ve sat through countless interviews where candidates stumbled over this question. But fear not! I will equip you to confidently navigate this question, showcasing your self-awareness and commitment to growth.

Highlights
  • Use your answer to show employers that you’re self-motivated and actively looking for ways to improve your skills and value in your career.
  • Rather than naming a weakness, consider naming something you’re already average or okay at, but wish to become much better at.
  • Relate your improvement area to the job you are applying for and explain how enhancing this skill will benefit your performance in the role.
  • Sound humble, “coachable,” and willing to learn new things and take on new challenges when answering.

Why Do Employers Ask “Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

Interviewers ask “What Areas Need Improvement?” for a few key reasons:

  • Self-Awareness: This question gauges your ability to identify your own strengths and weaknesses. A candidate who can’t recognize areas for improvement might raise concerns about their ability to learn and adapt in a fast-paced work environment.
  • Growth Mindset: Employers value candidates who are dedicated to continuous learning and development. Your answer can reveal your willingness to embrace challenges and strive for improvement.
  • Coachability: The ideal candidate is someone who is open to feedback and guidance. By discussing an area for improvement, you demonstrate your receptiveness to coaching and mentorship within the company.

How To Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?”

Having been a recruiter myself, I understand that this question can be a nerve-wracker for candidates. But fret not! By approaching it strategically, you can turn it into an opportunity to showcase your self-awareness and commitment to growth.

Here are my top tips on how to answer:

1. Identify an Area for Improvement (Choose Wisely)

When hiring managers ask interview questions about areas of improvement, they want to really hear something legitimate that you’d like to improve and feel you could improve upon. E.g., a skill you’re actively developing, a soft skill you can strengthen, or a tool or technology you’re learning.

Make sure to select a weakness that won’t significantly impact your ability to perform the job. For example, if this is a supervisor position, don’t say you need to improve your communication skills or get better at delegating tasks. Those are vital pieces of a supervisor’s role, and the hiring manager is going to have serious concerns about your ability to lead if you give that type of answer when they ask about your areas for improvement.

EXPERT ADVICE

Dr. Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES
Tech & Interview Career Coach
caffeinatedkyle.com

How should I frame my areas for improvement in a constructive and positive light?

Honesty is a great policy when interviewing, particularly when asked to share an area for improvement. However, you want to be mindful that you’re not focusing on a quality or skill that is vital to the role you’re targeting. If you’re applying for a project leadership role, for instance, you might want to highlight weaknesses other than organization, time management, or collaboration.

Now, if you struggle to identify an area for improvement, you can visit your latest performance review, or ask your manager, colleagues, or mentors for feedback. This can be as simple as, “What are my great strengths? What are my areas for improvement?”

Areas of Improvement You Could Use

  • Time Management Skills
  • Public Speaking
  • Proficiency in a Specific Software or Tool (e.g., Excel, CRM systems)
  • Delegation Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Advanced Industry-Specific Knowledge (e.g., a particular programming language, regulatory knowledge)

PRO TIP

Whatever skill or weakness you say you’re trying to improve, you should talk about what you’re working on right now to improve in this area. I can’t stress this enough. There’s such a big difference between saying you need to improve something in the future and saying you’re doing it already. The interviewer will be a lot more excited if you show you’re taking the initiative to improve your skill set right now… even before you begin the job!

2. Acknowledge Your Desire to Grow

Express your commitment to personal and professional development. Emphasize that you recognize the importance of continually improving and adapting to new challenges.

3. Connect Your Response to the Job

Relate your improvement area to the job you are applying for and explain how enhancing this skill will benefit your performance in the role. Make a clear connection between your personal growth and the value you can bring to the company. This demonstrates your understanding of the job requirements and how your ongoing development aligns with the company’s needs.

Example Response:

“I’m always looking for ways to improve, and one area I’m actively working on is public speaking. I recently took a public speaking course and have been practicing by presenting to my colleagues during team meetings. This has helped me feel more comfortable expressing my ideas clearly and concisely.

In this role, I see the importance of confidently presenting to clients and stakeholders. Being a strong communicator will allow me to effectively convey project updates, recommendations, and proposals, ultimately leading to stronger client relationships and project success.”

Example Answers For “What Do You Need To Improve?”

I’ve seen countless candidates navigate the “What do you need to improve?” question. While it might seem like a pitfall, it’s actually a chance to shine! Here, I’ll share some winning answers that address common areas for improvement, all while showcasing your growth mindset.

Time Management

“One area I’m actively working on is improving my time management skills. I’m currently exploring project management tools to help me prioritize tasks and meet deadlines efficiently, especially in a fast-paced environment. In my previous role, implementing time management strategies helped me reduce project turnaround time by 15%. This will allow me to manage multiple projects effectively, just like the one described in the job description.”

Software Proficiency

“While I’m proficient in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, I’m always eager to learn new tools that can enhance my design workflow. I noticed that the job description mentions proficiency in Adobe XD for prototyping. I’ve already started familiarizing myself with it through online tutorials offered by Adobe and plan to complete a certification course soon. Having a strong grasp of Adobe XD will allow me to contribute more effectively to the design process by creating interactive prototypes that enhance user experience, a key focus area of the role.”

Leadership

“I believe strong leadership involves continuous learning and development. While I’ve had experience leading teams in the past, I’m interested in further honing my delegation skills. I’m reading books and articles on effective delegation strategies. By delegating tasks effectively, I can empower team members, leverage their strengths, and achieve better results. This aligns perfectly with the collaborative and results-driven environment mentioned in the job description.”

Organization

“I recently started using a time blocking technique where I dedicate specific time slots throughout the day for different tasks. This allows me to stay focused on each project and avoid multitasking, ultimately improving my overall efficiency. In this role, with its multiple responsibilities and deadlines, strong organizational skills are crucial. My improved time blocking method will allow me to prioritize tasks effectively, manage my workload efficiently, and meet all project deadlines.”

Teamwork

“I recognize the importance of effective teamwork in achieving organizational goals. While I have always valued collaboration, I am currently working on enhancing my ability to build stronger relationships with my colleagues and better understand different perspectives. I have been taking online courses on team dynamics and actively seeking feedback from my peers on how I can be a more supportive team member. Improving my teamwork skills will allow me to contribute more effectively to group projects and help foster a more collaborative and productive work environment. Given that your company emphasizes teamwork and cross-functional collaboration, this improvement will enable me to integrate smoothly into your team and contribute to our collective success.”

Conflict Resolution

“Conflict resolution is an area I am focusing on improving. In the past, I sometimes avoided addressing conflicts directly, hoping they would resolve themselves. However, I have learned that addressing issues promptly and constructively is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment. I have started attending workshops on conflict management and practicing techniques for effective communication and negotiation. By improving my conflict resolution skills, I will be better equipped to handle disputes in a way that is fair and conducive to maintaining strong working relationships, which is vital for any team-based role. Given the collaborative nature of this position, these enhanced skills will help me contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment, ensuring that any conflicts are resolved efficiently and amicably.”

Customer Service

“I’ve been practicing de-escalation techniques like acknowledging the customer’s frustration and offering clear solutions. This has helped me maintain a calm and professional demeanor during difficult conversations, ultimately leading to a higher customer satisfaction rate. In a customer service role, building trust and maintaining positive relationships is essential. My improved de-escalation skills will allow me to effectively address customer concerns, leaving them feeling heard and valued, which will ultimately contribute to a positive customer experience.”

Mistakes To Avoid When Answering “What Areas Need Improvement?”

Here are some mistakes to avoid when answering “What Areas Need Improvement?”:

  • Clichés: Avoid overused phrases like “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” Recruiters see through these and might question your honesty.
  • Dodging the Question: Saying you have no weaknesses comes across as arrogant or lacking self-awareness.
  • Choosing a Critical Weakness: Avoid selecting a weakness that is essential to the job you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a position as a project manager, don’t highlight your struggles with time management or organizational skills.
  • Failing to Show Progress: Don’t mention an area for improvement without discussing the steps you are taking to address it. Employers want to see that you are proactive about your growth and development.
  • Sounding Overly Negative: Avoid framing your weakness in a way that sounds overly negative or self-deprecating. Maintain a positive tone and focus on your commitment to improvement.

Biron Clark

About the Author

Read more articles by Biron Clark


3 thoughts on “How To Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?””

  1. Very helpful information to be aware of when completing open ended questions when giving references. how can the individual work performance be improved. Thanks for the insights.

  2. Hi there! I was reading the post, but how do i answer if they ask me for personal and not professional improvement how should i answer to that, could you please provide an example? Best

  3. Wow! Since I am waiting for an interview and I don’t know if such question will be part of it but I would like to say thank you for giving me some clue on how to ask questions. Thank you

Comments are closed.