Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERVIEWS / FEB. 08, 2015
version 4, draft 4

How to Answer “Can you Describe a Time When Your Work Was Criticised?”


During the interview process, an employer may ask the question, can you describe a time when your work was criticised? This can be a question that may cause consternation and nervousness during the interview. However, an interviewee should not allow this question to trip him or her up during the interview. This article will address steps on how to respond to this question in a professional manner.

Why an Employer Would Ask this Question

We all make mistakes. However, not everyone is capable of owning up to those errors and making the proper adjustments and corrections to right the situation. When it comes to effective performance in the workplace, being able to own up to your mistakes and maturely accepting constructive criticism is a key ingredient. An employer needs to ascertain whether or not a prospective employee is capable of accepting such constructive criticism and taking personal responsibility for his or her own actions. The manner in which you respond to this question and the information you provide will give the employer a good idea of whether or not you are an ideal candidate for the job.

Steps on How to Answer This Question

There are several proactive steps on how an interviewee can effectively respond to this question during an interview. Responding in the ways mentioned below, will greatly increase your chances of positively impressing the employer.

1. Be Prepared for This Question

It is always important to be prepared for any job interview that you attend. One of the ways to prepare yourself is to think about how you would answer prospective questions from the employer. You should be prepared to answer any questions about your ability to accept constructive criticism. Before you get to the interview, review times when you made mistakes or your work was criticised. Evaluate how you reacted to those circumstances. Be honest with your self-review. Pick one of the situations where you handled the criticism in the best manner and keep that example in reserve to provide when asked that question during the interview.

2. Be Succinct, but Comprehensive

It is important to be honest and never outright lie about any of your experiences. However, it is self-defeating to respond to this question with absolute honesty about a situation that you handled ineffectively and poorly. You must find a balance in how you choose to respond to this question. When the employer asks this question, do not allow yourself to become nervous. Remember, you have already prepared for this question and planned how to answer.

Keep your body language calm and professional and respond with one of the specific examples you had prepared to share. The employer wants to ascertain how well you will respond to criticism in the workplace, so give succinct, yet comprehensive details on the issue and how you handled the censure. Additionally, the employer wants to determine whether or not you became discouraged with the criticism and then your work suffered. If you can show that you accepted the constructive criticism and made an effort to improve in your job, you will impress the employer.

3. Be Able to Showcase the Benefit

A final step in answering this question is when an interviewee can turn the query around and showcase how he or she specifically benefited from receiving such criticism. Be proactive in completing your answer with specific details on how your perspective changed or that you took the suggestions to heart and adjusted your work performance. Maybe your work performance greatly excelled from that point, and you received a special commendation from the manager.
You must always show that you saw the criticism as an opportunity to grow as an individual and became more professional in your work ethic. Your goal is to continually become a better employee and excel in your career. If you cannot pinpoint any specific benefits that occurred due to the criticism, you will not impress the employer. He or she needs to see that you are ready and able to handle anything that is said to you by future managers at this new job.

When you attend your interview, be prepared to respond to this question and don’t be afraid to share an experience when you were criticised. Remember, when you can showcase that a positive benefit occurred you have given the employer what he or she was looking for.

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