How to Answer: 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?
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.
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.
'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.
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.
"(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."
"(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."
"(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."
"(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."
"(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."
"(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."
"(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."
Anonymous Interview Answers with Professional Feedback