Interviewers are increasingly asking:
“What do you need to work on?” or “What areas need to be improved?”
It’s similar to asking, “What’s your biggest weakness?” but a little more open-ended (which means you could get in a lot of trouble if you don’t know how to respond).
Fortunately, I’m going to walk you through exactly how to answer questions about what you need to improve on, as well as common mistakes to avoid when answering.
Let’s get this party started…
How to Respond to Interview Questions About Your Needs
Here’s how to respond to the interview question “what areas need improvement?”
First and foremost, do not respond with a cheesy response such as “well, I work too hard sometimes, so I need to learn how to take breaks and not work so much.”
That will not impress any hiring manager. When hiring managers ask about areas for improvement during interviews, they want to hear something genuine that you’d like to improve and believe you could improve on.
Also, don’t mention anything important to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a supervisor position, don’t say you need to improve your communication skills or delegate more effectively…
Those are critical components of a supervisor’s role, and the hiring manager will have serious reservations about your ability to lead if you respond in this manner when asked about your areas for improvement.
That’s essential for being a good supervisor, and if you say you’re lacking in those areas, they’re less likely to hire you!
So, when answering the question “what skills do you need to improve?” choose a real area you’d like to improve in, but make sure it’s not something essential to the job.
You can choose something you’re already pretty good at but want to get better at. You can pick something you learned a long time ago but haven’t used much in recent jobs.
You can name something that isn’t directly related to your job but that you’re interested in learning. For example, if you’re an accountant but want to be a Team Leader someday, you’ll want opportunities to develop your leadership skills. You could suggest that you would like to lead a meeting or project to begin with, just to broaden your skill set in the long run.
Let’s look at some examples of answers to see if this makes sense…
As the first example, I’ll use the Accountant example from earlier.
Answers to the question “What Do You Need to Improve?”
Now that we’ve covered the major blunders to avoid when discussing areas for improvement during an interview, as well as how you SHOULD respond, let’s take a look at some word-for-word sample answers to ensure you’re prepared.
Improvements – Example Answer #1:
“I don’t get to lead very often as a Staff Accountant, at least not formally.” In the long run, I’d like to take on more leadership responsibilities. This could include things like leading meetings or projects, mentoring or training newer team members, and other similar tasks. I enjoy hands-on accounting work and intend to continue doing so, which is why I applied for this position. However, because I haven’t had much opportunity to lead in my career, I’d say that’s an area for improvement or something I could improve on.”
In this example, you’re naming something specific that you could improve on while avoiding naming anything that is critical to the day-to-day work in this job. You’re also demonstrating that you’re ambitious and eager to learn more about your field, which is always a good thing.
Just make sure you always sound like you’re interested in doing the job’s day-to-day work, or core work. If you don’t, you might lose the job!
That’s why, in the example answer above, I say, “I enjoy the hands-on accounting work and that’s still what I want to be doing.”
Improvements – Example Answer #2:
“Right now, I’m working on improving my skills with project management and organizational tools and technologies such as __ and .” As I advance in my career, I’ve realized that becoming an expert in project management software will make me and my team even more productive. So I’m attempting to progress from “good” to “great” in these areas.”
In this case, you’re naming something that you’re already pretty good at but want to get even better at.
Employers may occasionally change things up and ask a more direct interview question, such as “how can you improve your work performance?”
This example answer above is also appropriate for that question. So, if they ever ask you for something directly related to your core job that you still need to improve on, just use this formula…
Choose something in which you are already proficient but want to become an EXPERT.
Now consider another example of how to respond to the question, “What areas require improvement?”
Discuss HOW you intend to address these shortcomings.
Whatever skill or weakness you claim to be working on improving… and whatever answer formula you use above… you should discuss what you’re doing right now to improve in this area.
I cannot emphasize this enough. There is a huge difference between saying you need to improve something in the future and saying you already do it.
The interviewer will be much more excited if you demonstrate that you’re already taking steps to improve your skill set… even before you start working for them!
You never want to come across as if you’re waiting for a company to hire you before addressing a flaw! That’s not going to entice them to hire you. In fact, this is a mistake that will cost you many job opportunities.
To summarize, identify a genuine area for improvement while ensuring that it does not cast doubt on your ability to perform the job. Finally, discuss what actions you’re taking to improve this weakness and how you intend to address it.
As a final recap, here are ALL of the steps covered in this article…
How Should You Respond to the Question “What Areas Need Improvement?”
- Select one specific area in which you are actively working to improve.
- If you’re going to mention a weakness, make sure it’s not something vital or critical to the job you’re interviewing for.
- Instead of naming a weakness, consider naming something you’re already average or okay at but want to get much better at.
- When responding, be humble, “coachable,” and willing to learn new things and take on new challenges.
- Use your response to demonstrate to employers that you are self-motivated and actively seeking ways to improve your skills and value in your career.
- Give a genuine response rather than a generic one such as “well, sometimes I work too hard, so I need to learn to take more breaks.”
- Practice your response at home! Nothing comes out the first time, so practice what you’ll say when the interviewer asks, “what’s something you need to improve on?” before going on an interview.