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Scenario Based Interview Questions

To help you prepare for your next job interview, here are 20 situational interview questions with answer examples.

Scenario Based was written by and updated on March 16th, 2022. Learn more here.

Question 3 of 20

Tell me about a time when you received criticism from your manager. How did you react to that criticism, and did you make improvements?

The Goal

It can feel challenging to receive criticism in the workplace, especially from your leader, who you want to impress. The interviewer wants to know how you react in the face of criticism. The goal of your response is to show that you can hear criticism, respond professionally, learn from the feedback, and willingly take action to make improvements.

Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

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Advice and Examples: Tell me about a time when you received criticism from your manager. How did you react to that criticism, and did you make improvements?

  • 3. Tell me about a time when you received criticism from your manager. How did you react to that criticism, and did you make improvements?

      The Goal

      It can feel challenging to receive criticism in the workplace, especially from your leader, who you want to impress. The interviewer wants to know how you react in the face of criticism. The goal of your response is to show that you can hear criticism, respond professionally, learn from the feedback, and willingly take action to make improvements.

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      What to Avoid

      Avoid discussing a time when you received criticism about your character. Instead, consider providing an example where you received feedback on your skill level and were able to make noticeable improvements.

      Also, avoid discussing criticism around skills that are a must-have for the role. For instance, if you are applying for a business development position but often face criticism for being too shy to make cold calls, this example could cause concern with the interviewer that you don't have the confidence required to succeed in a BD role.

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Pro Tip

      'Tell me about a time when...' means that the interviewer is looking for a story-based example for this scenario-based interview question. You can form an effective response using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result.

      - Situation: Set the stage with the background information the interviewer needs to make sense of your story.
      - Task: Continuing to set the stage, give the interviewer an idea of your role and responsibilities in this story.
      - Action: Next, offer a detailed description of the steps you took to resolve the situation you described.
      - Result: Last, talk about the specific outcomes that resulted from your actions.

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      How to Answer

      This question is another way for your interviewer to ask about your most significant weaknesses. For this reason, be sure to give a clear example of a time when you received critical feedback on an important skill.

      Using the STAR method, clearly outline the scenario and how you worked hard to improve. Be sure to highlight what you learned from the situation and spotlight how this criticism helped you improve your quality of work. Your response should end on a positive note about a lesson learned and how this lesson has boosted your career or work performance, benefitting your future employer.

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      1st Answer Example

      "(Situation & Task) While working for Company XYZ as an executive assistant, I was asked to create presentation slides for one of our executive's client meetings. After the executive reviewed my work, he commented that some slides looked messy. This executive had different design concepts in mind and was not impressed with many of the style decisions I made. (Action) He had a background working for a creative agency in the past, so I chose to listen to his feedback, absorb the lessons he provided, and then incorporate those ideas into the presentation. (Result) In the end, the presentation looked very professional, and the executive was pleased with my changes. I kept the template in my Google Drive and made a few similar versions to have a library of slides to choose from whenever he needed a project from me. I felt inspired by his ideas, so I took a weekend course on designing presentations in Google Slides, and today I feel much more comfortable creating eye-catching presentations."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Retail Example

      "(Situation & Task) When I took my first assistant manager role, I received feedback that I was too much of a friend to the associates and needed to be a firmer leader. This feedback was hard for me to hear since it felt like a criticism of my personality. (Action) However, I listened to my manager when she told me this feedback because I knew that to keep my promotion and continue to grow, I needed to show improvements and a willingness to learn. I read a few books on leadership and communicating as a manager. I also listened to leadership-related podcasts every morning for a month. (Result) Ultimately, I realized that this weakness of mine came down to lacking clear expectations of my team members, thus failing to hold them accountable for the result of their work. I learned that I could still be friends with my team while ensuring that everyone performed to the best of their ability and met company expectations. The feedback ended up being a great learning experience for me and helped me grow professionally."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Sales Example

      "(Situation & Task) While working at Company XYZ as a sales representative, I was new to my career and very eager to climb the ranks. I came to work early, worked late nearly every day, and did everything that I could to grow my client portfolio. My manager, the VP of Sales, approached me one day. She said that she appreciated the grit I showed and my hunger to succeed. She then provided me with the feedback that I needed to slow down. She was worried that I would burn myself out and advised that steady, hard work would result in strong and sustainable results. (Action) As frustrating as it was to hear this feedback, I listened. After receiving the feedback, I dedicated my time to learning as much as possible in my current position and paced myself more sustainably. (Result) What I found interesting was that my sales results steadily increased, and I wasn't burning myself out simultaneously. I am thankful for the feedback I received. Now, as a Sales Manager, I often provide this wisdom to my most eager team members when I witness them overextending themselves."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Teacher Example

      "(Situation & Task) Recently, the school principal pulled me aside for a conversation. They told me that, although I am a seasoned teacher who many team members respect, I could benefit from being more adaptable to the modern ideas of our newer faculty members. Before receiving this feedback, I didn't realize that I was reluctant to change. (Action) Initially, I felt a bit embarrassed and wondered if I had hurt anyone's feelings. I took the day to reflect on the feedback and realized that my principal was right. I could often be reluctant to change. I took this revelation to heart and have since been more open to hearing the input and suggestions of our newer faculty members. Taking my progress further, I started helping make some of the suggested changes at my school. I've asked my colleagues for more feedback on how I can grow, and I asked one of the newer teachers to mentor me and show me some of the new learning plans she has been incorporating in her classroom. (Result) Thanks to the feedback I received and the action I have taken to change, my teaching and interpersonal skills have improved."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Admin Example

      "(Situation & Task) A couple of months ago, my manager asked me to increase my typing speed. This feedback came as a surprise since I did not think I was a slow typer - about 65 words per minute, which I believed was above average for an admin assistant. (Action) Initially, I felt a bit defensive. Then I thought that, rather than react, I should give myself an online typing test to see where my skills landed. I was surprised to see that my typing speed was only 50 words per minute. After receiving the feedback and seeing the results of my typing test, I started doing typing exercises every day. (Result) It didn't take me long to improve, and now I type around 76 words per minute with high accuracy."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Manager Example

      "(Situation) Last year, while working as the research manager for Company XYX, my director sat me down during my performance review and asked that I submit my weekly documentation faster than I had been. I agreed with his feedback. I knew that I preferred working on other tasks and less on typing up reports. (Task) However, I understood that timely documentation was critical to the success of our projects. (Action) I started to time block my calendar, giving myself three 20-minute time slots every day to complete my documentation. I set the time and did the work with no excuses. (Result) Eventually, the documentation became a natural part of my workflow. Now, my documentation is detailed and always on time."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Marketing Example

      "(Situation) At Agency XYZ, my marketing director places a lot of focus on using team-based apps such as Asana and Slack. She recently expressed that I am not as well versed in these platforms as she would like me to be. (Task) As the marketing manager, I need to set a good example. So, I accepted the feedback graciously and made an improvement plan. (Action) I have been taking time in the evenings to watch YouTube videos and other online tutorials on the most efficient ways to use these team tools. (Result) To my delight, I am learning creative ways to utilize features that many of my team members don't even know about. I've been able to teach my team a few shortcuts and tricks to optimize their productivity and boost our departments' communication significantly."

      Written by Rachelle Enns on March 16th, 2022

      Community Answer

      "I was asked to create some presentations for one event. After my supervisor reviewed my presentation, some of the slides required additional copy. He had different design concepts in mind. He had great experience in presenting data, and since I did not, I listened to his ideas and incorporated them. I thought they looked very professional and in subsequent presentations, I have included those concepts."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Rachelle Enns

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Rachelle Enns Reviewed the Above Answer

      Great! It's perfect that you added in how you listened and incorporated change.

      Community Answer

      "My advisor, during my second year of my study, told me that if I do not improve my academic writing, I will have a very difficult time in my research. The criticism was a bit harsh at that time, but his statements were very true. After hearing that, I implemented a better schedule for myself to improve my writeup. Whenever I had to write any new section/report/or an article, I made sure to read 5-6 different research papers and articles published recently in that area. This helped me better articulate my thought process in my papers and made me a good writer for the future research papers I wrote with my advisor."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Cindy Ramsey

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Cindy Ramsey Reviewed the Above Answer

      Good - You're accepting the advice taking the initiative to solve the problem.

      Community Answer

      "When I receive feedback from my Manager, I always appreciate the feedback because I know it will help me improve my work better. In my previous job as a customer service specialist, one day my Manager was very busy and she asked me if I can assist her in our team performance presentation. After my Manager reviewed the presentation, she told me that some of the slides need to have more data on it; she had a different design concept in mind. She had great experience in presenting data, so I listened to her ideas and incorporated them. In the end, it came out very professional and was a successful presentation."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Stephanie Cafaro

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Stephanie Cafaro Reviewed the Above Answer

      Nice response! This shows your openness to feedback and ability to use constructive criticism in order to improve performance outcomes.

      Community Answer

      "I received some valuable feedback from my manager's manager when I was two years into my first job. He told me that I would be able to reach my full potential in my career if I can manage people's perceptions of me. He told me that only doing good work is not enough, but I also need to advocate for myself and find my voice in team settings. I started observing how other senior members make themselves more visible in the organization. I took lead from them and started participating more in team chat channels. Over time, I became a point of contact for my team for most incoming requests."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Marcie Wilmot

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Marcie Wilmot Reviewed the Above Answer

      Nice! This definitely sounds like valuable feedback that you took to heart and implemented successfully. Can you also talk about another time when someone criticized you (versus giving you positive feedback) and how you handled that? Although your response is already strong, this will more directly answer the question that the interviewer has asked.

      Community Answer

      "During my 1 on 1 with my manager, she brought to my attention that she didn't think my notes in my tickets were very informational. I thanked her for her feedback and asked her what she thought I needed to improve on. Criticism is sometimes hard to take but I know it will help me to be better. She suggested the 5 W and 1 H. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. I made sure I asked these questions every time I updated my tickets. Anyone will be able to start where I left off if ever someone needed to take over for me without notice."

      Written by an Anonymous User

      Amanda Knight

      Our Professional Interview Coach
      Amanda Knight Reviewed the Above Answer

      Another strong example! It sounds like you did a good job using your manager's constructive criticism to improve your performance. If possible, share how your next 1 on 1 went. Did your manager notice and praise the improvement? Have fellow employees found it easier to resolve issues based on your notes?