Be self-aware

Your employer wants to know that you can think critically about your skills and can identify areas where you are able to learn new things. To do this, it can help for you to show the interviewer that you are able to respond positively to feedback or criticism and that you can use it to improve your skills.

If you discuss topics like this in an interview, it is important to show that you can be calm and professional in challenging situations.

These scenarios show different ways of responding to a difficult question. 

Which answer demonstrates a good level of self-awareness and improvement?

Tell me about how you handle criticism.

I’ve never received any criticism.

Not a very honest answer. Everyone receives criticism at some point. I want an employee who is open to feedback and has strategies for handling constructive comments.

He has clear and systematic strategies for handling criticism. He’s also given a good amount of detail in his answer. It’s good to see that he talks it over with the person concerned rather than escalating the issue by talking to others about it instead. He used this as a learning experience.

Well, in the past I have gone for a walk to recover from the embarrassment of the criticism and called a friend to get support. My friend used to work in the same department as me and knew that sometimes the criticism was unfounded. Talking about it made me feel better.

He’s characterising himself as powerless, rather than in control of the situation. He doesn’t mention any effective strategies for addressing the criticism either. He also talks to other people first instead of the person concerned. I am worried that he sounds too emotional.

Migrant: What can I say? I don’t want to admit to receiving criticism in front of the interviewer. It will make me look like a bad employee who makes mistakes.

Migrant: “I’ve never received any criticism.”

Employer: Not a very honest answer. Everyone receives criticism at some point. I want an employee who is open to feedback and has strategies for handling constructive comments.

Migrant: I think the interviewer wants an honest acknowledgement that I have made mistakes, received criticism and acted on the feedback.

Migrant: “When I first started at my last job, I received some criticism from my manager for some work that I had completed. First, I listed all of the key points that he made. Next I checked with him that I had understood all of his points and asked for suggestions about what is needed. Then I took some time to think about how I would deal with the issues and I wrote a list of possible strategies. Finally, I planned a meeting with my manager and discussed my possible strategies, and agreed on the best one. He was very happy with my solution and I learnt more about how to do well in my job.”

Employer: He has clear and systematic strategies for handling criticism. He’s also given a good amount of detail in his answer. It’s good to see that he talks it over with the person concerned rather than escalating the issue by talking to others about it instead. He used this as a learning experience.

Migrant: I think the interviewer wants to know how I deal with this kind of stress. Going for walks and sharing my problems is usually what I do.

Migrant: “Well, in the past I have gone for a walk to recover from the embarrassment of the criticism and called a friend to get support. My friend used to work in the same department as me and knew that sometimes the criticism was unfounded. Talking about it made me feel better.”

Employer: He’s characterising himself as powerless, rather than in control of the situation. He doesn’t mention any effective strategies for addressing the criticism either. He also talks to other people first instead of the person concerned. I am worried that he sounds too emotional.

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