Among the most common interview questions, “What areas require improvement?” is the most dreaded by job seekers applying for a new job for any position.
The inquiry “What are your areas that need improvement?” is similar to the popular “What is your greatest weakness?” in that it seeks to elicit confessions of flaws and real-life examples of humility from job candidates.
By asking this, interviewers may gauge a candidate’s current skill set and gain insight into whether or not they would be open to training and development in the future. Almost like giving yourself constructive criticism, there are methods and best practices for deftly navigating this potentially awkward question.
At MatchBuilt, we’ve helped 1000s of candidates prepare for the interview process, and for this important question, we asked human resources managers, executives, and career coaches to provide a few examples and strategies to answer it appropriately.
In short, the best way to answer the question is to consider them as opportunities you can address with preparation and practice. A common mistake, however, is to share an area of improvement that is specifically counter to a job requirement.
How do you answer what areas need improvement interview question?
You begin with proper preparation, consider an area unrelated to the job description, take a story-like approach, be honest, and give a clear answer.
If you want to ace your upcoming job interview, one of the best things you can do is prepare sample answers to questions like this. You’ll avoid discussing your greatest strengths and stellar work performance and focus primarily on new skills you’re striving toward. Read on to understand more about the best answers to the question “What areas need improvement?” a good example or two, and learn ways to answer confidently.
What Are Areas of Improvement?
In short, they’re opportunities! When a hiring manager asks, “What areas need improvement?” What exactly do they mean by improvement? Well, improvement implies that you’re still lacking in something and that you require more practice to become proficient at it.
When discussing areas of improvement, the first thing a hiring manager is looking for is a discussion of any skills or qualities you’d like to have but don’t yet possess or any areas in which your current level of expertise falls short of the requirement for long-term success. So, when we talk about “improvement,” we’re just talking about the places where you might use some more practice, expertise, or guidance.
Time management, delegating responsibilities, organization, communication, and motivation are all areas of improvement. Employees regularly rely on several of these talents and abilities in their jobs.
You can improve your chances of getting a raise or promotion by fortifying your weaker areas and expanding upon your stronger ones. The recruiting manager may probe for your most significant vulnerabilities during the interview. To demonstrate your self-awareness and motivation to grow, discuss your improvement areas and your efforts to address them in your response.
Reasons Why Employers Ask “What Areas Need Improvement?”
The key secret is that any successful leader will say that they can improve on something. Highly skilled professionals will constantly confess that they have areas that require improvement.
It is because individuals committed to constantly developing understands that there’s always something they wish they were better at, even if they already seem excellent.
The important thing is that you’re open to admitting and discussing the aspects you wish you could do better.
Now, if you’re wondering why the recruiting manager is interested in hearing about your weaknesses, there are a few explanations.
Firstly, an interview can take up to 1.5 hours, and more time is needed to get to know a candidate well in such a scenario. A productive hiring manager can save time. Instead, they need to get to the point by asking pointed questions like, “What areas need improvement?” to glean the necessary data as soon as possible.
Second, there are multiple benefits to having applicants discuss their weaknesses. The hiring manager can evaluate candidates’ openness, accountability, and self-awareness alongside any skill gaps they may reveal.
The candidate’s self-awareness is on display when they admit an area of improvement in their skill set or personal profile. It also demonstrates that you’re honest and don’t have anything to hide by discussing an area the interviewer may perceive as a deficiency in your application.
The hiring manager isn’t trying to embarrass or shame you, so don’t take anything they say personally. They’re not actively looking for excuses not to hire you, either.
They are more interested in determining if you’re a good fit for the position and, if so, how they might help you develop the necessary skills through training. It ensures that they hire the most qualified candidate.
As Taura D. Prosek, with executive strategy and career coaching firm Stewart Leadership, adds:
Hiring managers know applicants with no gaps in skills or experience required for the role are likely overqualified and will only be fulfilled for a short time. With the increased focus on retention in many organizations, most are looking for candidates who will stay and grow with the organization.
How to Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?” Interview Question
Here’s a guide on how you can answer the interview question on areas that need improvement.
1. Research the Company
Kali Wolken, Career Counselor at The Lookout Point, a company focused on career and mental health counseling for women, gives this directive:
Research the company ahead of time. Hopefully, you have already been researching the company as you prepare. Still, I encourage anyone preparing this question to research the company’s values and how they tackle difficult issues. If you can make your language echo things they have shared on their website or their company’s story, it allows them to picture you as a part of the company.
Taura with Stewart Leadership adds:
Review the job requirements and identify 1-3 areas where there is a gap or a development need. Share examples of how you are working on expanding your skills and planning to manage any risk related to this gap. This allows you to acknowledge the need for growth and demonstrate self-awareness, vulnerability, and problem-solving skills.
If the gap you are addressing relates to experience or skill, express your excitement to grow in this area and plan to get up to speed quickly. If the gap is more style or personality-related, know that this may be harder to overcome, but you can still do it. For example, if time management is not a strength for you, and the role requires skill in that area, this may be a more significant issue for the hiring manager.”
If you choose to share this example, identify and share the strategies you have used to overcome this in the past, including technology like apps or smart watches, project management approaches, and systems you have devised to keep you on track.
2. Think Outside the Job
Pick something that isn’t essential to the day-to-day activities of the job you’re interviewing for. For example, don’t highlight poor timekeeping for a job requiring daily tracking.
Instead, pick something that you are genuinely working on. Andrew Fennell, former recruiter and Director at StandOut CV, and leading resume writing company, suggests:
If you have a job in marketing, you may be working to understand more in-depth technical aspects of the role that are non-essential. Or perhaps you work as part of a team. Still, you are developing your managerial and team-leading skills, ready for future promotions.
3. Take a Story-Like Approach
Maureen, a career coach with Bravely, the only coaching solution built to provide transformative company-wide coaching for every employee at all levels, shares another insightful approach to this interview question:
1. Tell a story
2. Talk about how you got feedback
3. Demonstrate how you incorporated it into your life
4. Elaborate on how you got better.
The above formula works because it shows you CAN receive feedback—every organization wants this in an employee—- That you were able to use that feedback to change and bring it all home: how you know it’s working. It indicates that you know how to ensure that you can self-regulate/self-evaluate.”
4. Be Honest and Attach a Promise
John Ricco, a co-founder of Atlantic Group, a top executive recruiting firm, suggests straight-up honesty:
One of the things to consider when answering this question is honesty…For example, you could say that you lack experience in a leadership role but that you’re actively trying to improve that aspect of your work by taking courses and reading books. This way, you highlight a weakness in your work (a lack of experience) but reassure the interviewer that it won’t be a problem for very long.
Any answer to this question should have a promise attached to it. As long as you can commit to improving your working weaknesses, a potential employer shouldn’t see them as a detriment to hiring you.”
5. Answer Clearly and Concise
As you give your response, try to narrow it down as much as possible, as advised by Dani Herrera, a diversity and inclusion professional.
Instead of saying, “I want to be a better Manager,” which would mean something different for every person in the room, I’d say something like, “I’ve noticed that when I’m managing competing deadlines, I find it difficult to delegate tasks.”
Interviews are usually two-way conversations. If finding a workspace that is inclusive, accessible, and supportive is important for you, use the opportunity to ask your potential new employer what they can do to support you, your needs, and your career goals.
3 Best Example Answers To “What Areas Need Improvement?”
Upon reviewing a typical example answer to the interview question, “what areas need improvement,” you can get a clear glimpse of how to craft your responses. You can get a template from the examples below for future use.
Here are some example answers that cover different work scenarios:
Answer Example 1
That’s something I’ve been thinking through myself as this is my first application for employment. Even though I had to overcome obstacles and take exams that tested my strengths in school, I know that the business world is on an entirely different playing field.
Therefore, it was hard to identify problem areas before I worked at the company for at least a few weeks. Even so, I can’t claim to be perfect, and I am sure I will identify areas that need improvement. When conscious of my flaws, I may try to remedy the situation and eliminate them.
This example gives an approach that best suits a newbie in the employment field. It reveals one’s present ignorance of their weaknesses as far as it concerns the work. However, the respondent acknowledges their imperfection and readiness to learn, an attitude that employers would appreciate.
Answer Example 2
I was skilled at dealing with customers over the phone because of my previous position. Unfortunately, that leaves an opportunity with customer support email correspondences.
One or two misspelled words can completely change the meaning of an email, which is why I think it’s essential for customer service representatives to employ caution when communicating with clients via electronic mail.
That’s why I’ve been studying the most effective strategies for ensuring that email correspondence with clients always goes off without a hitch.
Answer Example 3
I debated whether to list “communication skills,” “presentation skills,” or “being more patient with colleagues” as areas for growth on my job application.
And in the end, I chose to include them all. Not because I have trouble conversing with others or giving speeches to an audience.
Even though I’m somewhat competent in both areas, I know how important they are in the professional sales world and would like to get even better. I believe one should always strive to improve and never settle for mediocrity.
Top Tips for Answering “What Areas Need Improvement?” Interview Question
If you intend to impress the interviewer with your response to the question “What areas require improvement?”, you need to take the appropriate approach. Here are some suggestions that may help open up dialogue on what could be enhanced.
1. Apply the STAR Technique
You can improve your responses to interview questions by using the STAR approach. Elements included in this strategy are:
- Situation: This section provides an example of a challenging work experience you’ve overcome.
- Task: In this part of your response, you’ll detail the specific duties and responsibilities you were entrusted with carrying out as a professional.
- Action: This part describes the measures taken to address the problem.
- Result: The final component describes the actual consequence of the intervention.
2. Pick an Attribute You’re Trying To Improve Upon
When discussing your weaknesses with the recruiter, it is essential to be able to end on a positive note. It’s much less daunting to pick an area you’re actively working on improving, like education, training, or self-development activities.
3. Prepare a Real Life Example
Picking a story from your life that’s still relevant can help the hiring manager see your opportunity in a new light. Challenges like these are common for many people throughout their careers. The likelihood that the recruiter will overlook a minor flaw in your application increases if you use an example they can identify personally or frequently encounter in their work.
4. Have a Positive Attitude While Responding
Most people’s tone shifts while discussing a flaw instead of a strength. But, you may hamper your chances of progressing if your mood deteriorates while answering this question.
If you bring up your weakness, you should do so with some seriousness. Keep an optimistic tone once you begin talking about your goals for improvement and the steps you’re taking to hone that particular talent. The hiring manager will likely overlook the flaw and notice your enthusiasm for growth and development if you come across it this way.
Common Mistakes When Answering “What Areas Need Improvement” Interview Question
The most common blunder involves bringing up a necessary skill on the job as a weakness. Acknowledging that you need to work on a specific skill could lose you the job if it’s a requirement of the position. There’s also the problem of bringing up a ubiquitous piece of technology. For instance, it might be unwise to admit that you aren’t particularly tech-savvy if the position requires administrative or office work.
Trying to disguise a strength as a weakness also backfires. It’s common knowledge among HR professionals that excuses like “I’m a hard worker” or “I’m a perfectionist” aren’t taken seriously. Though you may think your reply will impress a potential employer, it actually won’t. Instead, people will likely judge your response to be dishonest or manipulative.
Finally, it’s rude to avoid establishing eye contact when responding. In general, candidates who don’t make enough eye contact throughout an interview are less likely to be chosen. Even if you’re good at making eye contact during the initial stages of the interview, it could still hurt you if you don’t do it during this question. If you’ve been making intense eye contact up until this point, breaking it now can make you look dishonest. To reassure them, keep making eye contact with them.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Answer What Areas Need Improvement
Sharing what needs improvement can be a tricky question to answer, as it requires a balance between acknowledging weaknesses while demonstrating self-awareness and a willingness to improve. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to answer which areas need improvement.
While striving to be as honest as possible, endeavor to show the strength that lies within your weakness. Discuss your commitment to professional development by sharing practical measures that you're taking to make improvements. However, when choosing a skill to discuss, avoid anything that relates directly to the job description.
When responding to areas for improvement in a performance review, identify an area you are currently trying to improve. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, talk about something you can do well or averagely but still desire to become even better.
There are various examples of areas that need improvement in a performance review; it could be communication, problem-solving, or time management. Here's an example of how you can frame your review:
In the past half a year, I've struggled to figure out how to handle issues independently. About seventy-five percent of the time, I need assistance from coworkers or supervisors. Within six months, I will use my initiative to solve half of the challenges I face using only the tools at my disposal, such as training manuals, to acquire more specific expertise in areas pertinent to my employment.
You can respond clearly and concisely by describing specific abilities or expertise you hope to acquire. Rather than stating that your goal is to increase your management skills, you may say that you want to develop your capacity for delegation.
Cynthia B. Okonkwo, CEO and human resources thought leader at Nnamtique, adds the following:
"Share the successes you've experienced due to the conscious efforts to make improvements. For example, sharing that you were once a procrastinator, who now lays out a plan of action to complete projects, is a great one."
Employees can improve in various areas. Here are some areas that require improvement:
- Time management
- Communication skills
- Organization skills
- Customer service
- Accepting feedback
- Giving constructive feedback
- Interpersonal skills
You can use any of the modalities below to determine your areas of improvement:
Read the job description of the position that you are holding currently and see whether you are filling in well as specified. If not, you can strategize on measures you can take to meet the job's requirements. Learn the company's goals by reviewing its mission statement. Do your skills and duties align with it? You can enroll for an online course or practice other skills at work and get feedback from your colleagues.
Understand your own goals by creating a list of professional objectives for the next one, three, five, and more years. Then, evaluate your strengths to determine if they will contribute to your objective. If not, decide which ones will assist you in accomplishing your objective and focus on those.
Get feedback by talking to a reliable colleague, emailing a previous boss, or examining your evaluations to see if there are any patterns. Figure out your strong points and areas where you may use some work. A knowledgeable mentor can also guide you in determining your career objectives and provide actionable advice for reaching those objectives. You can expose and address potential flaws with their help.
How to Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?” + Examples Summary
The question “What areas need improvement?” or discussing your weaknesses is not always easy to answer. Nonetheless, if you use the tips mentioned above, you may come up with a great response that presents you as a trustworthy, self-aware professional who is always looking to learn and improve.
We recommend that you begin with proper preparation, consider an area unrelated to the job description, take a story-like approach, be honest, and give a clear answer. Your answer may pertain to your developing leadership skills, burgeoning soft skills, balancing your daily routine, improving time management skills, or boosting an effective communication skillset.
Put the advice and examples above to good use and add some flair to your response. In this approach, you can demonstrate that you’re honest, self-aware, and committed to growth.
If you’re having trouble with other challenging interview questions, we tackle how to answer “tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want this job?“, “What makes you unique?“, “Why do you want to work here?“, “What is your biggest achievement?” “Why should we hire you?” and other common behavioral interview questions throughout the site.