Woman answering question in a job interview

Some “stock” interview questions are relatively easy to prepare for and provide with you an opportunity to highlight your value as an employee. But you should also be prepared for standard questions that often trip-up even the most qualified candidates. “What would you like to improve about yourself?” is one of them.

Candidates who are self-deprecating may appear to lack self-awareness. Those who seem unwilling to admit that they have faults may appear arrogant. Answering this question successfully is all about presenting a balanced answer.

Here are five of our favourite approaches to this question:

1. Sell your adaptability

In almost every industry, there are changes on the horizon. Perhaps they are technological, legislative or cultural. Knowing what is around the corner for the company interviewing you is a useful tactic for this question—it allows you to talk about how keen you are to improve your expertise and grow your knowledge in line with these changes. This approach will present you as a proactive, forward-thinking employee who handles change well.

2. Show that you are open to constructive criticism

Did your previous manager tell you where your job performance could improve? Great! Talk about how you reflected upon that feedback, saw that it was valid, and decided to do something about it. Frame this as an ongoing process—as something that you are working on improving right now. Then describe how the process has already begun to pay off: for example, your productivity has increased or your teamwork has improved.

3. Demonstrate that you are embracing maturity

Most employers understand that we change over time, so show that you have embraced the process of maturation and career growth. You might talk about how work-life balance is more important to you now than it was earlier in your career, or how you have found joy in mentoring junior coworkers. Make sure that you still answer their question, explaining how this is improving you as a person and an employee.

4. Do not focus on gaps related to the essential skills for the role

Perhaps it goes without saying… but avoid talking about how you need improvement with the key deliverables of the role. Focus on a less essential skill that is still related to the position and how you are filling that gap. Be sure to counterbalance this with your expertise in the role’s “must-haves.” Nail this approach and the interviewer will see that you are both capable and teachable

5. Keep your references in mind

When you are answering this question, ask yourself how your references (i.e. past employers and colleagues) will respond if asked the same question about you. You can align your responses with what your references are likely to say, and use this opportunity to explain how you are actively working to improve in these areas.

Do not be afraid of the “What would you like to improve about yourself?” question—use it as a chance to shine! No matter where you are in your professional development, your interviewer wants to see that you are self-aware, coachable and open to feedback. Give a balanced answer that demonstrates your qualifications for this role and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Pro Tip: When preparing for this interview question, refer to the results from your Workstyle & Performance Profile assessment, which will give you insights into areas for improvement.

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