You have been sitting in your interview for a while, and then the interviewer stops talking. They casually, but oh so dramatically, look down at your CV and ask the question.
And don’t we all just love this little gem?
What can you say?
The question is, how to answer “what areas need improvement?”. It’s just another way of asking the old favorite, ‘What are your weaknesses?’. Some may panic, while others try to talk their way through it by not being honest.
So, today I’m going to take a look at how to handle this question correctly and what your options are.
- Knowing What To Say
- To Put You In An Awkward Position
- Genuine Interest
- Don’t Pretend A Positive Is A Negative
- If They Ask The Question They Will Expect A Reply
- Some Actual Responses
- Answers to Avoid
- Just Examples
- What Will You Be Trying to Achieve
- What Self Improvement Steps Are You Taking Yourself?
- A Big Difference
- An Alternative Question
- Interview Questions
- Additional Interview Guides And Advice
- Final Thoughts
Knowing What To Say
It is quite important to know what to answer. The interviewer isn’t stupid. They know that if you need improvement in a significant area, you are hardly likely to admit it at an interview. So what is the point in asking this question?
Well, it’s not a foregone conclusion you will be asked; that is the first thing to understand. But you must be prepared in case it is. There may well be two reasons, and sometimes you can determine which one it is by the way the question is asked.
To Put You In An Awkward Position
You will probably be able to pick this up quite easily. Depending on the position involved, it may be necessary to put you under a little bit of pressure to see how you handle it. The answer to the question will still be relevant, but so will the ‘way’ you answer it. I will come back to that a bit later.
However, it is more likely that the interviewer wants to know if you realize that there are things you need to improve on. No one will expect you to know everything. Whatever position we are in, we can always learn more and improve.
Nevertheless, it is a minefield for potential mistakes. And saying the wrong thing could have a detrimental effect if you are not careful. I’ll also come back to this shortly.
So let’s get down to specifics and discuss how you approach this question if asked…
Don’t Pretend A Positive Is A Negative
A common mistake to make is to try and pretend that something they might consider a positive is actually a negative. In other words, if you say that you often work too hard and put too many hours in, that is rather trite.
The employer would be hoping you would work hard. So why then say that is a negative and you need to not do so? You are insinuating you are not going to work so hard in the future. It is also quite likely that the interviewer will see straight through that one.
If They Ask The Question They Will Expect A Reply
But they will want more than just a reply. They will expect something that sounds realistic and legitimate. Something that they can see you want to improve. The interviewer is not going to be impressed by a lame example.
Some Actual Responses
Let’s try and look at what constitutes a real answer that will go some way to impressing an interviewer. And also one you must avoid.
The Relevant Answer
The best answer you can give will demonstrate to the interviewer:
- Show that you are aware there are skills you need to improve.
- Choose something you consider you are good at but could be better.
- Pick a skill or knowledge you haven’t used for a while in recent employment.
- Pick an ‘actual’ area that you can suggest, not a pretend one.
Whilst those answers might be relevant to the now and the recent past, there is another line you could take:
- Anticipate the future and mention that you would like to be a team leader of a small group.
- Or if there is something that you are interested in learning that you haven’t had the opportunity thus far.
But in all cases, it is very important to be aware of the following:
Answers to Avoid
When you are giving your answer, there is something you must avoid doing. You must not pick anything to improve that might be relevant to the position you are being interviewed for.
For example, will the job require interacting with other staff members or clients? If so, then don’t say you want to be a better communicator. Right away, you have suggested that your skills in this area might be lacking. If that is an important part of this job, then they might consider you unsuitable.
Another one to avoid…
Another example is if the job involves you heading up a small team or group of people. If it does, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that you want to improve your delegation skills.
These are purely examples, and of course, they may not be relevant to your interview. However, the idea is to show you how a bad reply to this question can affect your chances. By answering the question in a way that throws doubt on relevant abilities, you are jeopardizing your opportunity.
What Will You Be Trying to Achieve
The Interviewer will have their own agenda for your response. And what effect it might have on the outcome of the interview. But there is nothing wrong with you having your own agenda as well.
What will you want to achieve in your answer?
- To sound ambitious as well as motivated.
- To sound like you want to learn.
- Demonstrate that you will be enthusiastic about all aspects of the work.
- Mention how you are already improving some skills in certain areas.
- Be articulate and communicative.
While this question can seem like an awkward position to be placed in, you can use it to your advantage.
What Self Improvement Steps Are You Taking Yourself?
I mentioned in the last list that you could mention self-improvements that you had already commenced. This is a good way of demonstrating your commitment to improving as a potential employee.
However, don’t make it up or invent something on the spot. You may be questioned about it at the interview. If you can’t answer, that won’t show you in a good light.
A Big Difference
Before your interview, find something that would be a useful skill in this new position. Preferably something you know a little about. And then start looking at some online teaching to get you started.
There is a big difference between saying you are going to do something and actually doing it. By taking the initiative yourself, you will demonstrate a positive attitude. Companies like that.
An Alternative Question
Just before I wind this up, there is another question very similar in intent you may come across. You may get asked, “If you could improve your work performance, how would you do it?” Of course, that is almost exactly the same question but with different wording. It means the same, and the answers will be the same.
Because the interviewer needs to find out certain information about you, many of the questions at most interviews will be similar. There is almost a set format, depending on the occupation. But the ‘What areas need improvement?’ question can be thrown in to get you talking.
But let me just go back to an earlier comment. It is how you answer the question as much as what you say. Being positive and showing some form of desire, commitment, and evidence to improve is vital.
There are some do’s and don’ts, as I have discussed. But as I always say about interviews, that first impression has almost as much importance as anything you might say. So don’t only act like a professional but look like one.
Looking the part includes a good-looking briefcase such as the Tassia Luxury Leather Executive Case Attache Briefcase. And signing documents with a nice pen will give you a professional image; I recommend the Parker IM Fountain Pen.
And in case it rains on the way to the interview, get yourself the Lilyxin Premium Automatic Compact Umbrella Windproof.
Additional Interview Guides And Advice
Let’s start with my interview advice on What Are You Most Proud Of, How Would You Describe Yourself, Why Do You Want To Work Here, How Do You Handle Conflict, how to Answer Why Best Candidate Position, What Are Your Career Goals, How To Answer What Are You Passionate About, What Makes You Unique, or how about the Best Questions To Ask In An Interview, and my Strengths And Weaknesses For Job Interviews in 2023.
Or for a great selection of online guides, we found the Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, Get That Job!: The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions, the INTERVIEW with DESIRE and GET HIRED!: How to Ace the Interview, Sell Yourself & Get Your Dream Job, or maybe Amazing Interview Answers: 44 Tough Job Interview Questions with 88 Winning Answers for extra guidance.
The STAR Method has always worked for me, so check out The STAR Interview: How to Tell a Great Story, Nail the Interview and Land Your Dream Job, as well as The STAR Method Explained: Proven Technique to Succeed at Interview, also available online today.
Looking to become a nurse, then the NURSING Behavioral Interview Questions & Answers: 50 Top Behavioral Interview Questions and Answers for Nurses + STAR INTERVIEW METHOD EXPLAINED is worth a read.
Lastly, you can use the STAR METHOD INTERVIEW: Interview Journal: Notebook for job seekers to use as a guide for interview prep and a tool for interview questions and answers during interviews to practice before your interview.
When I’ve interviewed people for a position, I was always very conscious of candidates that were defensive in their approach to questions like this one. So don’t be like that.
The interviewer has every right to ask you what they think they need to know. Assessing your suitability for a position is their job. Be positive and use the question to give you an advantage in their eyes.
All the very best with your Future Interviews!